Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Polanski Case: An Overview of the Crime

(Part 1 of 2. Part 2 will be posted on Friday.)
(Note: There is sexual content in this post. I tried to water it down but the accepted facts of the case are pretty graphic. CaliGirl9)

I’ve been watching the Roman Polanski arrest “scandal” along with the rest of the world and have gone back and forth between two points of view—first, the “Throw the book at him” side, and then the “Here in California we have bigger fish to fry, the state is broke, forget about it” side.
So instead of waffling, I decided to take a side once and for all. To do that, I needed to know more about Polanski than I did from reading former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi’s book, Helter Skelter, and more about the crime other than the victim wanting to drop the whole thing now.
Polanski has a long history of overestimating his sexual prowess and irresistibleness. In Helter Skelter, Polanski was somewhat proud of being known as the “playboy director” following his divorce from first wife, Polish actress Barbara Lass. One of Polanski’s friends recalls the director looking through his address book, remarking, “Who shall I gratify tonight?” A non-friend described the diminutive Polanski as “the original five-foot Pole you wouldn’t want to touch anyone with” (p. 52).
What was Polanski up to in March 1977 when he took photos of a then 13-year old girl (weeks away from turning 14 when she was raped) named Samantha? How did this girl end up in Polanski’s clutches in the first place?
I have decided not to use the victim’s full name, nor that of her mother. Both are easy to obtain but I choose to not violate this family’s privacy any more than it already has.
What is revealed in the grand jury transcript of March 24, 1977 is an icky story about a pedophile weaving his web of flattery and promises of fame, a mother who was eager to “help” her 13-year old daughter’s modeling career along, and a 13-year old girl who had already been in situations no 13-year old belongs in, either in 1977 or today. Fame-whores all.
But just because the mom Susan and perhaps Samantha herself were looking forward to that nice spread in Paris Vogue magazine that Polanski promised does not mean raping that 13-year old girl was in any way, shape or form the right thing to do.
Photos of Samantha from 1977 reveal a very pretty girl who in no way looks older than her stated age (she looks a bit younger in the face I think). She was dressed like a 13-year old girl, not a Lolita as was suggested in European media accounts of the time. “Poor Roman, tempted by that little tart!” Hardly.
A friend of a friend of Samantha’s sister Kim originally put the family in touch with Polanski on February 13, 1977. When Polanski met and spoke to Susan, he told her he was interested in taking photos of Samantha for a possible piece in a Paris photo magazine, and showed the family an issue of Paris Vogue that had featured Polanski’s photos and articles about Polanski’s life. One of the photos was of a young girl he’d photographed in France, and he thought that a photo spread of young girls, accompanied by interviews, would be a good article.
First red flag: I hate to say this, having been a 13-year old girl myself for 365 days of my life, but who really wants to read an interview of a 13-year old girl in the context of high fashion or “art” photography? But the mother and daughter ate it up, agreeing that Samantha might be a nice contrast to the highly stylized girl Polanski had photographed.

On February 20, Polanski returned to the residence to take some photos of Samantha. Susan invited him into the home and the pair went through Samantha’s closet to pick out an outfit. Polanski said he’d wanted to do the photos at a place in Benedict Canyon, but because the natural light was less favorable, Susan offered, and Polanski accepted, an offer to take the photos on the hills near the family residence, requiring a short car trip with Samantha.
Polanski did not describe what kind of photos would be taken of the girl. When Susan asked if she could accompany the pair to take photos of her own, Polanski said no—Samantha would “respond more naturally” without her mother’s presence.
Red flag #2: Why would a mother allow her 13-year old daughter to be alone with a virtual stranger of the age 45 in the first place, and then after said 45-year old would not allow the mother to be with the pair for the first photo session?
According to Samantha’s grand jury testimony, the pair drove to the end of Samantha’s block and began to climb the hill. Polanski took photos of the girl and asked if she would change tops, handing her one he’d selected from her closet.
She changed into the top in full view of Polanski. Samantha was not wearing a bra.
He asked her to pose by a tree, directing her to “sit this way” or to look serious. He asked her to take her top off, and she did so, thinking this was how you “got so you don’t have anything on your shoulders.”
When she returned home, Samantha didn’t tell her mother about the topless shots, but she did say she considered saying no to any additional photo shoots with Polanski.
Red flag #3: A girl should always go with her gut feelings.
When Polanski returned for Samantha on March 10, Susan asked if she could see the photos from the February 20 shoot. He claimed that they had to hurry, they were losing the light and that he’d share them when he brought the girl home.
The plan for that second photo shoot was for Samantha to pose at Polanski’s friend’s house. Samantha’s testimony reveals she took more clothing for the photo shoot—she was wearing jeans and a blouse (not the same as those worn on February 20), an also had a t-shirt, a rugby shirt, another white blouse, and a blue dress. Polanski had picked out the clothing just like the first time.
The pair took photos at the first residence for about an hour. There were five people at the first house. Eventually Polanski called Jack Nicholson for permission to shoot photos at his home. Permission granted, the pair drove down Mullholland to that residence. Nicholson wasn’t at home, but his girlfriend Anjelica Huston was.
Polanski and Huston conversed while Polanski readied his camera. Before beginning this photo shoot, Polanski asked Samantha if she was thirsty. The girl replied yes, and Polanski produced a bottle of champagne from the refrigerator. That wasn’t the only beverage available—Samantha saw plenty of juice, soda and wine. Polanski asked for Huston’s permission to open the champagne, and she agreed.
Red flag #4: Let the seduction begin. How could Huston think this was an innocent little photo shoot at this point? Why didn’t Samantha decline and ask for something else to drink?
Polanski poured three glasses of champagne. Huston drank only half of hers, and eventually left for work. Initially Samantha posed outside on the patio, with the glass in hand, drinking from it, and not certain of how much she had to drink.
After some photos were taken, Polanski and Samantha went back indoors for Polanski to change the camera’s lens. He asked Samantha to remove her blouse and took photos of her standing behind a lamp. He made suggestions as to how she should pose, and the glass remained in her hands.
Next Polanski suggested they take photos by Nicholson’s Jacuzzi. Samantha had changed into the blue dress by now. (At least this time Polanski left the room while she changed clothing). Underneath the dress she was wearing only panties, and no bra.
On the way to the Jacuzzi Polanski took photos of Samantha in the kitchen. Noting it was getting dark, Polanski suggested the girl call her mother to tell her she was going to be late for dinner. Susan asked Samantha if she wanted her to come pick her up, and Samantha said no. Susan spoke to Polanski, and the photo session continued.
Or rather the seduction continued, after a side trip to the bathroom, where Polanski pulled out a pill from a little yellow container. Breaking the pill in thirds, he asked Samantha if she knew what the pill was. She did. He offered her a piece of the pill and initially Samantha said no. However, Polanski’s persuasive powers and Samantha’s drunkenness overcame her momentary resolve, and she washed down a little less than half the pill with a swig of champagne.
How did a 13-year old girl known what a Quaalude looked like? In her testimony, Samantha had seen photos of the pill, and as a shirt, and she found one when she was 10 or 11 years of age. And yes, she took a bit of it back then, too.

Immediately feeling upset about what she’d done, Samantha returned to the kitchen to eat something in the hopes she’d feel less drunk. After she ate, Polanski called her and told her to get into the Jacuzzi. On her way out, she stopped in the bathroom and removed the blue dress, explaining to the grand jury that she didn’t want to get the dress wet.
She was clad only in panties, which Polanski instructed her to take off and then get into the Jacuzzi. Polanski took few photos because the light was poor. He did not tell her how to pose, so she just stood there.
Polanski decided he wasn’t going to take any more photos and that he was going to join Samantha in the Jacuzzi. He adjourned to the house for a few minutes, and emerged fully nude. He entered the Jacuzzi, standing at the deepest part, and instructed Samantha to join him. Samantha said no, and said she needed to get out because the Jacuzzi was aggravating her asthma. Clever girl. She did not have asthma. But Polanski didn’t take no for an answer, and she eventually joined him in the deeper water, with Polanski holding the girl by the waist, because the water was nearly over her head. She felt his hand move around on her waist.
Claiming she needed to get out of the hot water because of her asthma, Samantha exited the Jacuzzi and wrapped herself in a towel. Polanski then went into the larger pool adjoining the Jacuzzi, and suggested Samantha do the same. Samantha said no, but ultimately jumped into the water at one end, and swam to the other end of the pool and got out. She went into the bathroom and Polanski followed her, asking if her asthma was getting worse. Samantha said she wanted to go home, “Now,” but Polanski suggested she lie down instead. He directed her to a bedroom that contained a bed and a sofa. She sat down on the sofa, Polanski sitting next to her. She repeated she needed to go home, but in reply, Polanski reached over and kissed her.
Samantha said no. And she still demanded to be taken home. Polanski said he’d do so soon, and then pulled down her panties and performed cunnilingus on her. (Samantha, for all of her worldliness, called it “cuddliness” in her grand jury testimony.) Again she said no but she was afraid to protest too much—she knew she was alone with Polanski.
In her testimony, Samantha said she had been drunk before and had been under the influence of Quaaludes before—but never both at the same time. She knew she was utterly impaired this night. She has periods of blackouts and said she was dizzy.
After a few minutes, Polanski progressed to vaginal intercourse. Samantha continued to say no and said during her testimony, “But I wasn't fighting really because I, you know, there was no one else there and I had no place to go.” Previous to the rape, she had had intercourse twice, so she was well aware of what was happening.
During vaginal intercourse, Polanski asked Samantha if she was on the pill, and if she remembered when her last period was. She replied she was not on the pill, and that she thought her last period was a week or two previous.
Polanski was no dummy. No one knew about HIV at the time, so the concern was an unplanned pregnancy. There was a risk she was in her fertile period. Instead of stopping the rape, first he said, “Well I won’t come inside of you,” and then he asked, “Would you want me to go in through your back?”
Samantha said no. Polanski raised Samantha’s legs into the air and penetrated her anally. She minimally resisting knowing she was alone with him.
The rape was interrupted by Huston returning home and knocking at the bedroom door. Polanski pulled out and had a brief conversation with her at the door. Samantha pulled her panties on, got off the sofa and walked toward the door. Once Polanski’s conversation was over, he returned to the girl, put her back on the sofa, removed her panties, and anally penetrated her again, climaxing inside of her. Satisfied, he let her get up, she pulled on her panties and dress, combed her hair, gathered her clothing, and left the residence, saying hello to Huston who was on the phone.
She sat in Polanski’s car, crying. After about five minutes, Polanski came outside and told Samantha he’d take her home soon, but he needed to talk to Huston. Ten minutes later, he returned, and instructed Samantha not to tell either her mother or her boyfriend about what had happened.
“This is our secret.”
Perhaps the most telling remark from Polanski’s mouth was, “You know, when I first met you I promised myself I wouldn't do anything like this with you.”
Had he done this before?
Polanski followed Samantha into her mother’s house, and went to her bedroom to put on a nightgown, asking her mom Susan to follow her. She instructed her mother “If he says anything about asthma, I told him I have asthma.” She then called her 17-year old boyfriend Steve, described by Susan as “Samantha’s friend.”
Polanski did indeed ask about Samantha’s non-asthma.
Susan again asked to see the photos from the previous photo shoot on February 20. Polanski returned to his car, and returned with a slide viewer. Samantha, Susan and her daughter Kim and Kim’s friend looked at the slides. Kim recalls Samantha as being somewhat glassy-eyed and out of it.
The first five or six slides were benign head shots. Then—a shot of Samantha nude to the waist.
Kim stepped back to take care of her dog, who had just peed on the floor. She did not look at any additional photos. Susan looked at the remainder of the photos but held her tongue, not wanting to embarrass Samantha.
Polanski was at the residence for about 30 minutes. Before he left, he lectured Kim on how she should treat her dog better.
After he left, Susan asked Samantha about the photos and why she hadn’t mentioned the partial nudity. Samantha said she knew her mother wouldn’t let her take any more photos if she knew, and besides, she believed they were going to be used as shoulder shots, and how she really wanted to be in Vogue. Susan knew she’d signed no release for the photos and knew Polanski couldn’t use them without her permission.
Kim was so angry that she called her friend Henri, who had been instrumental in Polanski making contact with her mother. She demanded that Henri make Polanski hand over the photographs.
Meanwhile, Samantha’s friend Steve arrived, and during a conversation with the boy, Samantha revealed the sexual assault. Her mother was informed, and the police were called.
The wheels were set in motion. Roman Polanski was about to become a wanted man, and not in the way he always wanted to be.
How many poor decisions were made and how many people could have interceded on Samantha’s behalf? This crime was ordained from the beginning—Polanski, someone who considered himself Hollywood royalty for years, no doubt felt untouchable. Anjelica Huston could have denied Polanski the bottle of champagne or questioned what Polanski was doing with a young girl in the first place. As part of the investigation, Huston was interviewed and described Samantha as not being at all distressed, as being a bit snotty and not looking like a 13-year old girl at all. The mother, Susan, seems to have been pretty darn permissive, with her 13-year old daughter already having had the opportunity for exposure to Quaaludes, alcohol, and sex. The idea of her daughter becoming a world-class model was too irresistible.

How many mothers would allow their young teen daughter to travel anywhere with a 45-year old man who was not her father, brother or close relative? Samantha herself could have shown better judgment— she was uncomfortable after the first photo session, she was uncomfortable early in the second session. Yet she still drank champagne and voluntarily swallowed the Quaalude.
But this was back in 1977, at the peak of disco, cocaine and sexual freedoms. Just how much trouble was Polanski in? That would be decided through the investigations and in the criminal justice system. Or would it?
Backlash Builds Over Polanski Support (CNN)


Ronni said...

It was a different time and place. I remember letting my daughters go places with people I wouldn't dream of allowing in this day and age...nowadays, thanks to the increase in predatory behaviour, we have learned to be more careful. Back then, we parents were somewhat naive. And girls were not taught to stand up for themselves the way we teach them now.

Those flags might not have been as red or flapped as briskly in the late 70s.

Sprocket said...

CaliGirl9, I can't wait to read part II because you outdid yourself with this entry. Just fantastic.

Nora said...

Rape is rape, whether it is a minor or adult, someone famous or not famous. Rape is a crime of violence and Polanski should be held accountable and serve his sentence in full. Shame on Hollywood for defending Polanski.

LinZbee said...

Thank you CaliGirl9 for a wonderfully detailed account. I am following this one and appreciate your hard work and excellent reporting, as always.


Anonymous said...

Excellent account which puts all into perspective. This is a guy with extreeeemely bad Karma and he seems to be bent on making it even worse by his behavior.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to CaliGirl for the report. I have been following this closely. About all I knew about Polanski was from the Helter Skelter book and Chinatown being one of my favorite films. I was aware that Polanski had plead to statutory rape before fleeing the country, but did not know the full details.

Polanski should have to stand before justice and be held accountable.

David From TN

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the overview. I thought I read that it was not Angelica Houston, but the caretaker of the property that let them in to Nicholson's house and let them have the champagne. Houston came home afterward?
And, I agree with Ronni, parents were much more nieve then. Doesn't make him less of a sexual predator, though.

Jesdamala said...

What fascinates me most about this post, so well written and all the details, is the mother's oblivion to what was going, on, or was she?
Why would she allow her child, her daughter, to be allowed this time with Polanski. It is true in photography, outside influences interfer, I can say this as a former stylist who did endless shoots with celebrities who had their entourage there.

Now, I am not in anyway endorsing Polanski, or supporting him, I worked as a stylist for decades, legit, in print and commercials, and believe me, I have see the 'mothers' who would do anything to get their children ahead. Thankfully, there, in legit shoots, photo and commercials, were constraints in place, with teachers required, hours, etc. How seductive would a wanna be Hollywood mom enticement be than to be her child in a French magazine?
Stupid woman.

When Caligirl uses the term 'fame whore', well, so many have fallen into this trap over the years, and still continue to do so.

While I await the courts to deal with Polanski, nothing I have a vested interest in, yes, he overcame a horrific life in many ways, no excuse.

May I also add, I had, still have, one of the most beautiful sons on the planet. He was born beautiful.
I was stopped at malls by everybody, and many who handed me cards as agents, casting directors, you name it. I got calls from him summer camps, yes true, that casting agents were there, and he was always singled out. I declined any offer, never responded to anything. I trusted nobody, and hey, he has gone onto a life of no celebrity, but he has remained safe. This was the 80s, and us mothers, or some of us, were all more alert, maybe to Polanski. I live in LA, it was news.

Sorry to be wordy, but completely fascinated by Caligirl's post, fabulous writing, and truly takes things into perspective.

Anonymous said...

He has a penchant for very young women. He was with a really young woman after he fled to Europe. Not sure if he married her or not. They should prosecute him to the full extent of the law. My one wish is that Polanski and Spector could have adjoining cells. These two men have single handedly hurt and ruined more people's lives than can be believed. I used to be a Spector supporter, but, let me tell you, I had my aha moment. He's right where he belongs and I thank the good people of T&T for waking me up. The truth was always right there.

shari said...

WOW, what a great piece. I am also nauseated at the behavior of everyone involved in this debacle. I have 2 daughters and the whole thing makes me cringe. Polanski should serve time just as he would have if he hadn't fled the country. Hollywood needs to get some moral backbone and brains UGH! Is this how these Cali liberals want their children treated?

Karen said...

I had a Writing teacher in undergrad days who "knew" Polanski in a peripheral way, and got into a big rant once in class about how terrible it was that Poor Roman was having to flee to Europe, how the Mom had virtually "thrown" her daughter into his arms, the girl was no little angel, blah blah. It infuriated me, as I felt his was clearly a "boys-will-be-boys" attitude. Thanks Caligirl, as the transcript makes clear just how wrong he was.

Polanski had the best of legal and financial resources a perp could have and he could easily have fought the rape charge and pretty likely (I hate to say it) succeeded- he said, she said, no DNA then. He could've claimed he just got excited but didn't actually "do" anything, and she would've had her butt handed to her by his Defense on the stand. Yet, oddly, he pled guilty to rape. For some reason known only to himself, raping a 13 yo girl was less terrible than pleading guilty to plying her with booze and pills!

Anonymous said...

If he was a low-life like Couey then everyone would STILL say off with his head.....but money and power negate this. I have always felt these parents need to be held accountable.....such as the ones who put their own into Michael Jackson's bedroom and so forth.
Wes J.

CaliGirl9 said...

Karen, you bring up an excellent point.

Samantha was no pure little 13-year old girl. She testified to having had intercourse twice before she was raped; she admitted to having been drunk and to having taken Quaaludes. Back then (as now, but usually a less successful tactic I hope) the victim’s character would have come into question, and I think that there were potential problems with a prosecution—your DNA problem being just one.

Anjelica Houston was prepared to testify that she thought Samantha could have been up to 25 years of age, one of that kind of girl who could look years younger or older, and that Samantha didn’t act distressed. There could have been an argument made that the semen on the panties was Steven’s—can’t prove or disprove the source back then, and the only sure thing known was Samantha was alone with Polanski and Steven that night. There could have been a question as to when the semen got there in the first place. I’ve not read anything describing the condition of the panties, though forensic scientists were not able to observe motile sperm in the semen sample.

Famewhores never make for sympathetic victims or witnesses. Anyone remember Punkin Pie or Jennifer Hayes Riedl in the Phil Spector trial? A pair of most unlikable women … neither were terribly effective witnesses. Might Samantha's mother be just as sympathetic as either of those two witnesses?

CaliGirl9 said...

Anon @ 9:31:
The grand jury testimony stated it was Anjelica Houston who let Polanski and Samantha on the premises; however, the Polanski probation document says a caretaker named Helena Kalliniaotes let the pair into the home and gave permission to take the champagne.
Kind of amazing that two official documents have such different information.

Nora said...

Film director Roman Polanski agreed to pay his sexual assault victim $500,000 to settle a lawsuit 15 years after he fled the United States, according to court documents provided to media outlets Friday.