Oscars 2003: Did Roman Polanski miss his best shot at freedom?
Up until this week, many Roman Polanski supporters believed that the case against him might get squashed because of allegations of judicial misconduct. In the documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," former prosecutor David Wells claimed that he'd had an inappropriate chat with the judge in 1978, advising him on how he could throw out Polanski's plea bargain and put the confessed sex offender back behind bars.
Perhaps so. We'll never know for sure, but there were many reports back in 2003 that prosecutors might reduce his sentence to time served (42 days he spent in state prison while undergoing psychiatric evaluation in 1978). All he had to do was agree to return to a California court and face the sentencing he dodged when he got out of jail.
Back in 2003, Polanski's "The Pianist" was a major Oscars contender and Hollywood put on quite a show, whipping up sympathy for him. Surprisingly joining the welcome-home party was his victim, Samantha Geimer, who asked everyone to forgive him. In an article she wrote for the L.A. Times, she even encouraged academy members to vote for him if they felt he deserved to win.
The New York Post was among the news media that reported "promises from prosecutors that he can return to America and avoid prosecution on the under-age sex charge that sent him into exile."
However, the Post added, "The director is said to be holding out for total amnesty." When no deal was struck and Polanski won the Oscar as best director, he ended up accepting it via satellite from Europe.
Why can't a new deal get struck now? Apparently, the old goodwill is gone because of that controversial documentary, which accused the California legal system of unethical behavior, which no longer seems to be true. The accusation caused Polanski's lawyers to seek a dismissal of the case. That infuriated authorities, who responded by intensifying the hunt for Polanski — and finally nabbed their man.
Photo credit: Jacques Brinon / Associated Press