Friday, October 2, 2009

Roman Polanski Case, Part 2: The Investigation, Plea, Evaluation and Flight

The investigation began that night, with LAPD officer Robert Tumas responding to the call. Officer Tumas took Samantha to a nearby hospital so evidence could be taken.
The grand jury testimony explains what was done to Samantha. It is almost as graphic and humiliating as being raped.
Phillip Vannatter (later of OJ Simpson fame) was brought in as investigator on the evening of March 11, 1977, when he served a search warrant on Roman Polanski’s room at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The search warrant listed film, cameras, and “Rorer 714 tablets”—Quaaludes.
Vannatter, three additional police officers and two Deputy District Attorneys executed the warrant found Polanski in the lobby. They showed him the warrant and Polanski lead the group to his room.
According to Vannatter’s testimony, Polanski attempted to remove a small white pill from his left jacket pocket to drop it. Vannatter put his left hand underneath Polanski’s and instructed him to drop the pill into Vannatter’s hand.
It was a Quaalude.
Polanski was utterly cooperative during the search of his room. Once the search was deemed complete, and the necessary items seized, Polanski was placed under arrest and charged.
A warrant was also executed on Jack Nicholson’s home, where photographs were taken.
On March 12, 1977, Polanski was freed on a $2,500 bond.
On March 26, 1977, Polanski was indicted on charges of giving a drug to a minor, committing a lewd act upon a person less than 14, rape of a minor, rape by use of a drug, oral copulation and sodomy.
On August 8, 1977, Polanski pled guilty to only one of the charges—engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor—at the request of Samantha’s mother, who wanted to spare her daughter the pain of testifying at trial. Because the plea was for rape of a child under the age of 14, Polanski was bound over for a 90-day mental health evaluation in the Department of Corrections, which was mandatory under Mentally Disordered Sex Offender (MDSO) proceedings. Once those terms had been met, the remaining charges would be dropped.
Polanski was released from Chino after only 45 days, afraid for his safety. (The former prosecutor claims Polanski charmed everyone at Chino and promised them parts in his movies.) When Judge Laurence J. Rittenband, called “the judge of the stars” (he presided over Elvis and Priscilla's divorce) and who was renown for his rushed to judgment and distain for motions was informed of this, attorneys on both sides were summoned and there was a new plan: Polanski would go back to prison for the remainder of the 90 days and then be deported.
In a Washington Post article from February 1978, Polanski claimed to be “exhausted” following the 45 days undergoing the court-ordered psychiatric tests that he had agreed to as part of the plea.
A probation report prepared for a September 19, 1977 hearing included parts of Polanski’s statement. Some of Polanski’s remarks were quite interesting:
Polanski claimed that he didn’t know that it was not acceptable for the girl to remove her shirt—“Topless photograph [sic] is acceptable in Europe.”
Polanski remarked that the first batch of photos weren’t too good.
In a conversation on the way to Nicholson’s house, Samantha was talkative (which she was not in front of her family when Polanski visited), and stated she liked champagne and had gotten drunk at her father’s house. She also said she’d done Quaaludes before, stealing a pill from her mother’s prescription. Samantha also said she’d first had intercourse at the age of 8 and later her boyfriend.
Polanski claims they talked about birth control while in the car.
Polanski claims the Quaalude was in Nicholson’s bathroom.
Polanski “expressed great remorse regarding any possible effect the present offense might have on the victim. He expressed great pity and compassion for her.” That pity did not extend to Samantha’s mother or Kim’s boyfriend Henri, who had been instrumental in putting Polanski in touch with the family.
Samantha’s mother Susan’s statement was also cited in the probation report. She said, “I don’t want to see him in jail. I want an assurance of remorse. I want no unreasonable publicity. I want to keep our anonymity.” [Writer’s note: Huh? She was willing to pimp out her kid to French Vogue but she didn’t want any unreasonable publicity?]
When asked if Samantha needed any therapy to get over the rape, Susan said, “she believed her daughter would oppose this because of possible expense to the family.”
The document reveals that Samantha indeed bristled at the idea of therapy, but the victim’s family’s attorney said Samantha would undergo at least an evaluation.
Excerpts from letters of recommendation for Polanski were included from industry co-workers. Included are statements from Richard Sylbert at Paramount Pictures, producers Howard Koch, Dino de Laurentis, Robert Evans and Gene Gutowski (who claimed Polanski was frequently used by younger females!), director Robert Towne, actresses Mia Farrow and Ruth Gordon. Most of the excerpts evoked memories of Sharon Tate’s murder, Polanski’s difficult childhood, and how he deserved understanding and forgiveness.
The court ordered psychiatric report by Dr. Alvin Davis reveals that Polanski was not mentally ill nor was he a pedophile or a MDSO. The offense against Samantha was an “isolated instance of transient poor judgment and loss of normal inhibitions in circumstances of intimacy and collaboration in creative work… permissiveness of mother … willingness and provocativeness of victim… his solicitude concerning pregnancy, all contribute to the above impression.”
“He is most likely not to reoffend… incarceration would serve no necessary or useful purpose …”
“Defendant indicated … the act was spontaneous.” (Remember the post-rape remark “You know, when I first met you I promised myself I wouldn't do anything like this with you.” I’m not buying the “not spontaneous” observation one bit!)
A second exam by a Dr. Ronald Markmam resulted in the opinion that Polanski was not an MDSO, that hospitalization was not necessary, and that he would “profit from therapy” for ongoing depression.
The report recommended probation. The recommendations stated:
1. Pay a substantial fine plus penalty assessment to probation officer in such a manner as he shall prescribe.
2. Not associate with children under the age of 18 except in the presence of responsible adults.
3. Cooperate with probation officer in plan for psychiatric treatment.
4. Seek and maintain employment as approved by the probation officer.
5. Maintain residence as approved by the probation officer.
6. Obey all laws, orders, rules and regulations of the probation department and the court.
(The 1970s were a very different time from today. Still, the way this report reads leads me to think the doctors were giving Polanski the benefit of a doubt because of his history and celebrity. I wonder if the same charity would have been given to someone that was not a celebrity who had suffered the same tragic history. Also note that Polanski did not adhere to any of these stipulations.)
Rather than take his chances in front of Judge Rittenband, who was within his right to ignore the probation report, and who was facing public criticism with the possibility of Polanski getting off easy when a regular Joe would have gone to prison for 20 to 50 years (Polanski believed he was facing anywhere from one to 15 to 20 years in state prison according to the plea transcript), Polanski fled the U.S. on February 1, 1978, bound for London, where he maintained a home. He quickly migrated to his native France to avoid extradition from Britain. France can refuse to extradite its citizens to the U.S.
Despite what the probation report said about Polanski’s unlikeliness to reoffend, in 1978, Polanski set his sights on 15-year old German actress Nastassia Kinski, whom he’d cast as the lead in the film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel, “Tess of the D'Urbervilles.” At least this time he was smart enough to seduce a 15-year old girl in France this time—not a crime in that nation!
In an People magazine interview from 1981, the actress said of Polanski’s rape charge: “I don't care who says what. I know he wouldn’t do that.” The affair she had with Polanski concluded once the movie had been filmed. “It was just a romance. I fell out of love with Roman after a while because something bigger grew—a real understanding. He’s like from my family.”
So very European.
Polanski was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director for “Tess,” his collaboration with Kinski.
Sentencing, which had been scheduled on February 14, was postponed due to Polanski’s absence. Judge Rittenband vowed to stay on the bench until he could see the Polanski case to fruition. The judge didn’t keep that vow, retiring from the bench in 1989 and dying in the early 1990s.
In December 1988, Samantha, now 25 years of age, filed a civil suit against Polanski, claiming sexual assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and seduction. Attorneys fought the civil suit in Polanski’s absence from American soil, and eventually the Second District Court of Appeals ruled that his attorneys could defend Polanski in absentia.
In October 1993 he agreed to pay $500,000 plus interest.
The most recent records, in August 1996, indicate Polanski had not paid Samantha in full by 1996; according to a statement filed at that time, he still owed $604, 416. Attempts had been made to garnish his wages from movie studios, his agent and the Screen Actors Guild.
An apparent deal had been struck with Polanski in 1997, with Polanski agreeing to surrender in Los Angeles, but that he would not serve any additional time—something that had been agreed upon by Polanski’s attorneys and the LA District Attorney. By that time, the case was handed off to a name very familiar to T & T readers: Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler. Judge Fidler did not have to uphold what the two sides had agreed upon—sentencing is at the discretion of the judge.
Polanski was a no-show.
In 2003, Polanski won an Academy Award as Best Director for “The Pianist.” Of course he was a no-show at the ceremony despite celebrity pleas for Polanski to be allowed into the U.S. without fear of arrest for having skipped his sentencing back in 1978. Even Samantha went public and asked he be forgiven.
In February 2009, attorneys for Polanski argued that all Los Angeles County Superior Court Judges should be disqualified from hearing the Polanski case at all. Polanski’s attorney argued that the entire bench was biased because a court spokesperson had commented to media that Polanski was required to be present at the hearing, thus, proof of prejudice.
Evidence of judicial misconduct popped up in a 2008 documentary titled “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.” In an interview former prosecutor David Wells claimed he’d had a conversation with Judge Rittenband on how he could renege on the plea deal and sentence Polanski to more time. Rittenband was angry at Polanski when he saw photos of the director partying at an Oktoberfest celebration. The judge said Polanski was going to do more time, that remark was reported to one of Polanski’s attorneys, and off he went.
This past week, Wells admitted he’d lied, saying he thought the interview made for good viewing and that he didn’t think the documentary would be broadcast in the U.S.
Polanski was arrested in Switzerland on his way to receive an award.
LA District Attorney Steve Cooley isn’t saying just what his office has up its sleeve. In the LA Times, he stated, “It’s about completing justice. Justice is not complete when someone leaves the jurisdiction of the court.
“Mr. Polanski pled guilty to a crime, so apparently Mr. Polanski believes there’s a crime.”
And perhaps the most important remark: “There are still five or six other much more serious charges pending that have yet to be resolved.”
Why is this important? Because the additional charges have not been dropped, and Polanski did not fulfill his part of the plea deal—he was released from prison quicker than 90 days and he did not show up for sentencing. The bench can reject the guilty plea because Polanski did not complete the terms of the deal. He’s also facing a charge of failing to appear in court.
The original judge’s actions may have been wrong and out of bound, but failing to show up for sentencing is viewed as a pretty serious thing. Isn’t it something like contempt of court? Judges really hate that …
Samantha and her mother have both said they not want this case pursued, and Polanski should be left alone.
But they may not need their testimony at all. There is plenty of evidence, plenty of other people able to testify, and of course the grand jury testimony that could be admitted. At minimum, the failing to appear is a slam dunk.
The State of California must bear the cost of Polanski’s extradition, and of course another trial if that’s the way it goes.
Shortly after his arrest on September 26, the French and Polish governments sent letters to United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, calling for Polanski’s immediate release, stating he was being persecuted because of his celebrity. As of this writing, both governments have backed off this initial stance, and adopting the “he should be held accountable” stance.
Celebrities who have gone public in their support of Polanski or have signed the various “free Polanski” petitions floating around include directors Wes Anderson
 (“The Royal Tenenbaums”), Darren Aronofsky (“Requiem for a Dream”), Jonathan Demme (“Philadelphia”), Neil Jordan (“Interview with the Vampire”), John Landis, Mike Nichols, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Terry Gilliam and Woody Allen; actresses Isabelle Adjani, Penelope Cruz, Monica Bellucci
, Isabelle Huppert, 
Tilda Swinton, and Debra Winger; writer Salman Rushdie and designer Diane von Furstenberg. Even Sharon Tate's sister Debra Tate has made remarks supporting Polanski's release from custody.
We all know about Whoopi Goldberg’s “It’s wasn’t rape-rape” remark.
Today Samantha is a mother of four kids. I wonder if she is raising her kids a bit differently than she was raised and if she’s a bit more vigilant than her mother. I want to know if she would hand her daughter over to a 45-year old man on the promise of modeling fame, and if she’d be so quick to shrug her daughter’s rape off.
Feel free to discuss—I think I have taken my stand. Polanski must face justice, and he would have been far better off taking his chances in 1977–78. Citizens don’t take quite as kindly to child molestation today, and I seriously doubt a jury is going to sit there and say to themselves “But the 70s were different.” I was a teen in the 1970s, and I know I would never have been put in that position by my mother or my own actions. I'm a mother today, and the only sentence I'd accept for someone who raped my daughter is castration.
Is a defendant’s tragic life a mitigating factor in this crime? Are Susan and Samantha’s reluctances any reason to let Polanski off the hook? Perhaps a jury in Los Angeles will get to decide.
I look forward to the comic opportunities this case affords to George Frangides. “When Phil met Roman and Bonded with Charlie,” about three 60s icons reminiscing about good times while bonding in Corcoran State Prison. George, I’m working on the script!
Roman Polanski Media Reports Archive (an excellent source of information!)


Sprocket said...

Bravo CaliGirl9! Bravo! A wonderful read and you covered everything.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, CaliGirl9! I am amazed at how "small" the huge LA County system is. The same names keep popping up in these high profile cases Spector, this case, OJ, and even the detective in the Cameron Brown case. It's like reading about familiar characters in a series of crime novels only it's real!

Anonymous said...

In my mind's eye, I've been picturing Phil Spector and Roman Polanski in adjoining cells.

David From TN

Patient said...

Of course Woody Allen support him! He married his own adopted daughter. They were dating when she was wearing a catholic school outfit and had a back-pack on!

AnnaB said...

Child rape is a crime and NOONE is above the law. I am truly sorry for the hardships he has went thru but that does not mitigate or condone his rape of a child. Running from it and staying away intentionally does not give him a free pass on his actions. He should be held accountable for all of it and treated the same as any non famous person would be if they did the same crime.

Jesdamala said...

What a tangled web this is!

A compelling report from Caligirl9...thank you!

There are a few things that bother me, her mother basically being completely oblivious, or completely fame hungry, Angelica Huston's take, some thirty years ago, as a witness, doubtful her story will change, but cannot help but wondering how she would feel about this today, decades later.

If the mother wanted to avoid publicity, why file charges, go to the police in 1st place, considering her child's history, and then, wondering why years later Samantha filed a civil suit, which would only garner more publicity, but hey, we all need money.

Now, the only person who truly is accountable is Polanski, and who knows where this will lead? He did the dead, but one of the unfortunate things is that so many involved who could have prevented this. Her sister, her mother, the friend Henri, Angelica, who knows where the end of the list is.

Who knows,considering recent reports, what really went on behind closed doors of the judiciary.

What a soap opera!!!!!!!

Caligirl9, your reporting is equal to anything on any blog, on any main stream media, on any editorial, any newspaper anywhere.

Mothers, never let your children out of your sight, don't be seduced by thoughts of fame, there are legit channels for that, reputable people, but this sad, decades long chilling story is one for the books!

Jesdamala said...

I meant to say he, Polanski, did the dead! Still getting used to the keyboard, and no spell check!

It seems it is all Polanski, all the time these days, but nobody has done it better than our Caligirl9.

Jesdamala said...

OK, one last try, he, Polanski did the DEED!

Anonymous said...

I am really surprised that Mike Nichols put his name on that list.

I am also shocked that Samantha had intercourse at age 8. Surely that was some form of molestation?

Sprocket said...

The Age 8 comment:

I believe this is part of what POLANSKI said, Samantha said in the car on the ride to the photo shoot.

CaliGirl9 said...

Sprocket is correct about the age 8 comment—it was part of a conversation and in the legal documents no additional info was given. Polanski claimed Samantha said it in the same conversation where they discussed birth control (WTF?), getting drunk, taking Quaaludes and having sex.

Still ... age 8. Just wow. Who was watching this girl? How was she ever in the position to have intercourse at that age? With whom?

Good lord when I was 8 I wasn't even aware of those parts!

I'd like to hope it was really something like "playing doctor" a la one of Dr. William Ayres' victims who thought he was having sex with a third grade classmate. Not saying that was okay, but it is sure a bit easier to take than the idea of a third grader having full blown vaginal intercourse.

Still, Samantha's bravado and apparent worldliness was no reason or excuse for Polanski to do what he did, especially because he actually knew her age. Doesn't matter than Anjelica Houston thought Samantha looked older—she wasn't having sex with her!

Jesdamala said...

Just pondering our recent loss of Dominick, wouldn't it be fabulous to have him chime in on this one!

If he is up there, aware, he is stirring up the clouds bigtime.
Eveybody, watch your weather!!!!!!

kellygreen said...

Excellent series of articles, Caligirl!

Is the Mike Nichols signing petitions in support of Polanski the same Mike Nichols who is married to ABC's Diane Sawyer?

Keep up the good work!

CaliGirl9 said...

kellygreen, I believe so. Most media accounts describe the person who is publicly supporting Polanski as director Mike Nichols. A bulk of the petition-signers are producers and directors, and many European-based actors.

I do find it interesting that neither Jack Nicholson nor Anjelica Houston have voiced their opinions in public—yet. Or will they be smart enough to keep quiet?

I am glad you all have enjoyed the articles. They could have been twice as long!

Nora said...

Mike Huckabee (on his show) made a strong stand against those who defend Polanski. He also played this youtube video of Dragnet grilling Polanski - there are a few versions of this up at youtube, worth watching. Here's one of them

Anonymous said...

Cali, I just want to second what Jesdemala and others have said your article was first rate reporting. No wonder newspapers are in such bad shape. To all of T&T bravo.

September moo

Nora said...

Surprisingly, SNL came down hard on Polanski last night.

Karen said...

There is a backlash developing. We've all become a lot more aware of the damage that this crime does. The only difference between Polanski and some skeevy perv in a trailer park in Florida is the price of their drugs and booze.

CaliGirl9 said...

Other celebrities who have come out pro-Polanski include Natalie Portman and Kristin Scott Thomas.

The “he should face justice” group (via Twitter, blogs or interviews) include Chris Rock, Kevin Smith, Bill Maher, Kirstie Alley, Jewel, John Legend, Alison Arngrim, Alison Sweeney, Jillian Michaels, Lisa Kudrow, Patricia Arquette, Melissa Gilbert, Arnold Schwardenegger, Geraldine Ferrarro, Roseanne Barr, Montel Williams, Jamie Lee Curtis, Drew Carey, Cokie Roberts and Salma Hayek.

Christine said...

In the 70's it was a lot more "anything goes" and the sexual revolution was in full swing... Hippies were getting their infants stoned, group sex was in, the pill made it so easy for so many to experiment. So I can see why at that time Polanski's actions were not considered as reprehensible as they are now. The pendulum has swung back since that time. My take on it is that people are beginning to have more respect for other people, and to realize that children cannot be exploited in the many ways they have for generations.

If you read David Copperfield and Dickens you get a look at the exploitation of children in England, and if you look at forced marriage of 12 and 13 year olds who then get pregnant, have internal damage and become incontinent and become outcasts, you can see how much children in many parts of the world are still treated like objects to be used and thrown away.

Hopefully, as we live in what we wish to be a more evolved place where all beings are treated with compassion and dignity, a case like this will indeed be retried. Not out of revenge or celebrity, but because the rest of us need to know that when a child is abused that the offender is punished.

It is an interesting sidelight that the victim does not wish to have this occur, and I would really wonder why this is. Was she brainwashed by her mother who also didn't want to pay for her going to therapy after the event, that same mother who neglected her in hopes of making her a profitable asset to the family by being a model for a famous director?

There are many aspects of this case which I find a sad reflection of "morality". This includes people writing that Polanski should have no further charges brought against him. I cannot judge those other people, but at the same time don't have a whole lot of respect either.