L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

29 September 2009 Blog Home : September 2009 : Permalink

Roman Pedo Polanski

The real question I have regarding Polanski's arrest in Zurich is why did it take the Swiss authorities so long to arrest the scumbag? There is one answer here (via Patterico):

U.S. authorities said Sunday they’ve tried to capture director Roman Polanski on his previous trips to Switzerland, but it wasn’t until recently that they were able to lay the groundwork days ahead in order to facilitate his arrest by Swiss police. . . . “There have been other times through the years when we have learned of his potential travel, but either those efforts fell through or he didn’t make the trip,” William Sorukas, chief of the U.S. Marshals Service’s domestic branch, said Sunday.

This time round, U.S. authorities learned of the director’s trip days in advance and were able to get the operation going.

That's a plausible excuse - after all the award was well publicised on teh Intertubes - but I still think I'm missing something. Polanski has a house in Gstaad (Wikipedia mentions it and it's being suggested the dirty old man might be allowed out on bail to stay there) and went skiing there frequently for long periods. Surely all the US authorities needed to do was get on the horn to Switzerland on say January 3rd and ask their colleagues Gstaad to wander down to the Polanski chalet a few times a week and when someone appears to be home knock on the door with an arrest warrant. Indeed given that, until recently, you had to show a passport when travelling from France to Switzerland, surely it would have been even easier for the Swiss border police to flag the name Polanski and stop him the next time he entered the country? Perhaps there are legal reasons relating to deportation paperwork that mean that this is not possible but it seems a bit odd.

I do have one possible reason, Swiss localism. It is possible that Polanksi used to either fly direct to Gstaad or drove, thereby avoiding the main entry points of Geneva and Zurich airports - when I've driven in/out of Switzerland we quite often just waved our passports and they never looked at them. Also it is worth pointing out that the different cantons in Switzerland have considerable independence so it is quite possible that the Zurich authorities were willing to get him but their colleagues in Berne (Gstaad's Canton) and Geneva - the way I'd get to Gstaad by car from Paris would enter/leave Switzerland at Geneva - were not.

Mind you I do wonder at the special pleading going on here. From the MSNBC article linked above:

Authorities in Los Angeles consider Polanski a “convicted felon and fugitive.” The director had pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl. He was sent to prison for 42 days but then the judge tried to renege on the plea bargain. On the day of his sentencing in 1978, aware the judge would sentence him to more prison time, Polanski fled to France.

What this section fails to point out is that Polanski plea bargained a guilty plea to "unlawful sexual intercourse" rather than go to trial for rape and sodomy. 42 days in prison for anally raping (read testimony) a 13 year old girl (and he KNEW her age) is a joke and one suspects that either the judge realized he'd be in deep doodoo if he left it at that or he never had any intention of leaving at that but Polanski (and his lawyers) misinterpreted something. Either way my understanding is that pleading guilty to a lesser charge is merely something between the perp and the prosecutors. The judge then has freedom sentence based on the sentencing guidelines for the lesser charge and one suspects that "unlawful sexual intercourse" has a maximum sentence of a few years. The good news is that fighting his extradition probably means he'll be spending quite a few months in a Swiss prison, while I'm sure it's more pleasant than a US one it certainly won't be a pleasure camp. Something tells me that no matter what he tries, he won't be granted bail since he has a history (see quote) of jumping bail.