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Roman Polanski – famous director drugs and rapes 13-year-old girl, flees country, and remains free (with support from Hollywood friends)

Mug shot of Roman Polanski

Roman Polanski’s tale reads like millions of other child abuse stories except the participants were rich, elite, and never paid for their crimes. In fact, the abuser, famous movie actor and director Roman Polanski, was celebrated – and continues to be celebrated today. Countries seek his artistic merit and refuse to extradite him while Hollywood elites continue to claim his reparation – a month in jail, a week of psychological evaluation, and decades on the run after fleeing the United States – were sufficient for his crimes. Polanski remains free, and continues to direct and appear in movies (e.g. Rush Hour 3), despite tricking, drugging, and raping 13-year-old Samantha Gailey.

Roman Polanski, on top of the world

By 1977 Roman Polanski was on top of the world. It had only been eight years since the brutal murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, in the Manson Family murders, but Polanski, a celebrated film director, experienced a series of career-making professional triumphs during the 70’s. He’d directed the hit movies Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown and received multiple Academy Award nominations. Polanski seemed to be an unstoppable force in the movie industry – then his world came tumbling down.

Roman Polanski is accused of child molestation

Manson murder - Sharon Tate body (black and white blurred)

After Tate’s death, Polanski remained single, enjoying the fruits of being a relatively young man with money, charisma and talent to burn. Hollywood rags noted that he was often seen squiring pretty and interchangeable model-actress types to party after party in Los Angeles, London, and Paris, where he split his time. At the top of his game, in 1977, his world came crashing down after Polanski was accused of six felonies: furnishing Quaaludes to a minor, unlawful sexual intercourse, rape by use of drugs, oral copulation, sodomy, and child molestation. For the second time in less than a decade, Polanski found himself at the center of a fierce media firestorm.

All the hallmarks of a sleazy exploitation film

The setting was glamorous: a famous actor’s house, the abode of Polanski’s close friend, Jack Nicholson (who was not home at the time of the incident). The participants were elite: a famous director and a nubile, aspiring actress-model and an ambitious (some might even say complicit) mom. There was a steamy Jacuzzi. There were drugs — Quaaludes to be precise. There was booze: champagne, of course. All under the premise of a legit photo shoot for Vogue magazine.

But this was not the plot of a tawdry B-movie, nor even some nihilist parody directed by Polanski, starring one of his many beautiful actresses. It was real life, but would rival the most sordid scenes he would ever direct.

Who was Roman Polanski?

 Film director Roman Polanski in the 1960s

Polanski experienced unimaginable tragedy at a young age. Born in France of Polish-Jewish descent in 1933, he and his family moved back to Poland in 1936 and were swept up in the horrors of the Holocaust. His mother was gassed while pregnant at Auschwitz; and his father was sent to the Mauthausen-Gusen forced-labor camp. Young Roman escaped from the Krakow Ghetto before his parents were sent to the camps, and was sheltered by Polish families while pretending to be Polish Catholic.

With only the beginnings of a formal education in hand (he was taught by his half-sister before his flight from the ghetto), Polanski escaped his horrific reality through the movies and quickly became enamored with the industry. He attended the Lodz Film School and became one of Poland’s fastest-rising stars. Shortly after, he married Barbara Kwiatkowska, an actress, and landed on the cover of Time magazine for his film, Knife in the Water – all by the time he turned 26. He was nominated for his first Oscar that year in Best Foreign Film category.

Polanski divorced Kwiatkowska after only two years of marriage and soon after met Sharon Tate. Tate and Polanski were married in a London ceremony that was followed by parties that went on for days. Shortly after, he experienced his first major Hollywood success with the hit movie, Rosemary’s Baby (starring Mia Farrow). He was flying high when the Manson murders took the life of his wife and their unborn baby. Polanski had been in London at the time of the slaying and was due to fly back home, when he got the call about the murders.

After Tate’s murder, Polanski flew to Paris and lived for three years in Italy. He was often seen dating younger and younger girls in press photos. By 1977, he had revived his career with the movie Chinatown, again receiving critical accolades from the film industry. Along with Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, he was considered among the very best directors of the time.

Vogue Hommes magazine requests an adolescent photo shoot

Samantha Geimer, at 13, photographed by Roman Polanski
Photo by Roman Polanski – © Photo shoot on March 10, 1977

Polanski had finished working on an ill-received movie, The Tenant, when he got a call from Vogue Hommes magazine. The magazine was a precursor to the lad magazines of today, such as Maxim or FHM. Scantily clad pictures of girls were a commonplace feature. Polanski had shot a cover photo of his rumored paramour Nastassia Kinski, then 15 years old, for French Vogue in 1976, and editor Gerald Azaria asked Polanski to do something similar for Vogue Hommes.

Polanski explained to the editor that he would be aiming to portray these adolescent girls “as they really are” in the world: “sexy, pert and thoroughly human.” By “adolescents”, he and the magazine reportedly understood this to mean 13- or 14-year-old girls. In the sexually anarchic 1970s, this was a proposal which could pass as relatively unexceptionable.

Assignment in hand, Polanski sought subjects for the shoot. He met with Henri Sera, a friend and an aspiring singer. A year prior, he and Henri had met a woman named Susan at On the Rox, the upstairs bar inside the Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip which was frequented by celebrities like John Belushi, John Lennon and Alice Cooper.  After the meeting, Sera had begun dating one of the woman’s daughters, and suggested to Polanski that the younger sister, Samantha Jane Gailey, would be perfect for the shoot. She was an aspiring model and actress.

Samantha Geimer, at 13, photographed by Roman Polanski

It was a familiar situation for Polanski. In Europe, he had met Kinski under similar circumstances — her mother had introduced him to the nubile, aspiring model and actress. His photos had helped launch Kinski’s career, and he cast her in the lead role in his controversial movie, Tess.

On February 13, 1977, Polanski left the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, which served as a semi-permanent home for many of the Hollywood elite. It was the same place where Julia Roberts was filmed strutting through the lobby in Pretty Woman. Polanski kept a penthouse suite at the hotel. His neighbors were Warren Beatty and Steve McQueen.

Polanski drove to Woodland Hills in the Valley and was introduced to the family. When he met Gailey though, he was disappointed because he found her to be so unremarkable. She was certainly no Nastassia Kinski; she looked perhaps a bit like Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver. Pale with a tawny cast to her hair, she had a huskier voice than one would have expected for a girl so young.

For the family, he flaunted impressive photos of Kinski in Vogue, a fact that would later be played up by the prosecution:

“We have this man coming in, showing an elaborate, slick paper magazine — Paris Vogue — with beautiful photographs of beautiful girls and scenery and background… almost like a movie setting.”

No photo session occurred on that day, but the family was duly impressed. They agreed to schedule a photo shoot later.  Polanski told her and her mother that their session would last no more than an hour.

The Polanski/ Samantha Jane Gailey photo shoot

Samantha Geimer as a teenager

Polanski returned to the Gailey’s home on February 20.  After selecting some of the different outfits from the pile that Samantha and her mother had chosen, he and Samantha drove a mile away into the hills, where the Pacific Ocean could be seen in the distance. After shooting her in several different blouses, he then asked to her remove her top — telling her that her breasts would not be shown, just the top of her shoulders.

She nevertheless later testified that she was uncomfortable.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to tell her or not. I was just going to say I didn’t want to get any more pictures taken by Polanski again.”

Afterward, Polanski suggested a second photo shoot. Polanski complained during the first shoot that the light was fading, crucial in photography, and asked for a second session. He took Samantha back to the house where her mother was waiting. After making loose arrangements for a second shoot, he left the next day for New York.

The second Roman Polanski photo shoot – things start getting weirder

On March 10, 1977, Polanski arrived again at the Gailey home, two hours late. In a hurry, Polanski and 13-year-old Samantha dashed off unaccompanied by either her mother or the friend that Samantha had planned to ask to come along. First, they went to Jacqueline Bissett’s house on Mulholland Drive. There, he shot mostly straight photos of her, though he reportedly persuaded her to pose without a bra. She posed near the pool while several of Bissett’s friends watched through the windows of the house.

But the light again seemed to be fading too fast and Polanski proposed that they shoot indoors at Jack Nicholson’s house, only a few minutes away. Polanski phoned Jack Nicholson about coming over, but the actor was out of town, skiing in Aspen. The house-sitting neighbor, Helena Kallianiotes, told him to come over.

Though their earlier shoot had been mostly unremarkable, Samantha now began to become increasingly uncomfortable. In the ride over, he reportedly began to pry, asking Samantha if she was a virgin and if she knew about masturbation. She told him she had a boyfriend.

Roman Polanski persuades Samantha to pose nude in the Jacuzzi

Samantha Geimer, at 13, photographed by Roman Polanski

Once they got to the house, Samantha asked for something to drink. Instead of grabbing one of the myriad of sodas or juices, he poured three glasses of champagne, for himself, Samantha and Kallianiotes.

Kallianiotes then left for work, and Polanski resumed taking pictures of Samantha. Sensing that she was relaxed, he asked Samantha to take off her top again. She posed with the glass of champagne against her breast, the Hollywood lights flickering behind her. Polanski later said:

“We weren’t saying much now and I could sense a sort of erotic tension between us.”

He asked her to get into the Jacuzzi.

Before she did so, she called her mother, who asked if she was all right or needed to be picked up. At that time, Samantha said that everything was fine.

After the phone call, Polanski brought out a Quaalude broken into thirds. He took one piece, and she took another.

They went outside to the Jacuzzi; she was about to get in when he asked her to take off her underwear. She protested but went along with it — later she would say she was already feeling disoriented. She posed for pictures with Polanski standing above her and shooting her in the water. But the combination of the heat of the Jacuzzi, the Quaalude, and the champagne was beginning to have a dizzying effect on her.

Polanski then decided he would join her.  He put away the camera and went to the bedroom and returned naked, and got into the Jacuzzi. He tried to sidle up to her in the Jacuzzi, at one point grabbing her by the waist, but she protested, according to her testimony. She tried to get out, telling the director that she had asthma (she did not). He was dismissive, “Yeah, I’ll take you home soon.” She asked to go home again and he told her to lie down in the cabana.

She protested yet again. “No, I think I better go home.”

 Roman Polanski et Emmanuelle Seigner au festival de Cannes

Later she would explain to the grand jury why she didn’t protest more vehemently: She had been afraid.

“What were you afraid of?” prosecutor David Wells asked.


Despite her rebuffs, Polanski continued to solicit the young girl. He testified that he tried to “kiss and caress her” in a gentle way. Her recollection is different: She repeatedly told him, “No,” and “keep away.”

Polanski told her, “I’ll take you home soon,” and started to perform oral sex on her.

Throughout the time leading up to the trial and during the trial, there had been radically opposed descriptions of Samantha’s actions in the press. On the one hand, she was portrayed as an innocent,  starry-eyed 13-year-old girl who had posters of Spiderman on her wall; on the other hand she was painted as a precocious nymphet, sexually initiated and experienced with drugs. She was either a virgin or a whore, depending on the account.  But in her testimony, one quote stands out. It witnesses her true age and inexperience. She described oral sex as “cuddliness,” evidently meaning cunnilingus. Apparently, she didn’t know the correct pronunciation of the word.

The Roman Polanski assault is interrupted by Jack Nicholson’s girlfriend

Actress Angelica Huston

Midway through Polanski’s assault on Samantha, Jack Nicholson’s then-girlfriend Anjelica Huston arrived at the house. When Polanski had been unable to reach Nicholson, he had called Huston, so she knew he was at the home. She wasn’t fond of Polanski. She found him to be “a freak.” She came home and heard noises but couldn’t locate him. She finally knocked on the door of the room in which Polanski was consummating his assault on Samantha. He opened the door and told her “We’ll be a few minutes.”

While she was reportedly irritated that Polanski had presumed to use her boyfriend’s house for a sexual conquest, she failed to note anything dangerously amiss, later only describing Samantha somewhat unsympathetically as “sullen.”

Meanwhile, as Polanski was explaining away the circumstance to Huston, Samantha had put her clothes back on.  Polanski closed the door and ordered her to take her clothes back off.  The assault continued unabated.

“This is our little secret”

Afterwards, Samantha cleaned up and got in his car. She cried for a few minutes while she waited for him to return and take her home. In the car he turned to her and said, “Don’t tell your mother about this and don’t tell your boyfriend, either. This is our little secret.”

He continued with an attempt at flattery: “You know, when I first met you I promised myself I wouldn’t do anything like this with you.”

During the half-hour drive back to the Valley, he told her he would take her and her family out to see Rocky the following week. “My motives weren’t particularly altruistic,” he later said. “It was one way to be sure I’d see her again.”

When they arrived at the house, he escorted Samantha inside, and smoked a joint with the mother and her boyfriend. He showed them the photos from the first session.

As with the rape, there were two differing accounts. The girl’s mother recalled that upon seeing the topless photos, “jaws dropped.”

Sera had called Polanski later that night and told him that the family didn’t like the pictures at all. But Polanski remembers it differently: he recalled that they liked the pictures.

The director had gone back to his hotel and had dinner. He later met with Robert De Niro to discuss the possibility of working together.

Samantha reveals the assault to her parents

Sera’s phone call to Polanski was perhaps the first tip-off that his liaison was not without consequence.

Samantha’s mother was about to find out that the pictures were just the tip of the iceberg.

Her initial discovery of the rape was a game of telephone. First, Samantha told her boyfriend. Then, she told her sister, who told her mother, who called the police.

The girl was brought in for questioning and submitted to a rape-kit examination — the results were indisputable: there was evidence of “minor bruising to the anus,” and no evidence of vaginal rape. There was seminal fluid on her underwear.

At the end of grand jury testimony on March 24th, Polanski was indicted on six felony counts: furnishing Quaaludes to a minor, unlawful sexual intercourse, rape by use of drugs, oral copulation, sodomy, and child molestation.

The Arrest of Roman Polanski

The day after the rape, Polanski had big plans: he was supposed to go out with his 19-year-old girlfriend Lisa Rome, and a director, Frank Simon on the Sunset Strip. But at 7 p.m., Detective Phillip Vannatter put a distinct crimp in his evening. He intercepted the director as he was leaving the lobby of the Beverly Wilshire. The officer was somewhat discreet, explaining that they should go up to Polanski’s room. Upstairs, a total of nine cops were in the room with Polanski, who was treated so well that he was never put in handcuffs. They even appeared a bit star-struck; a few reportedly asked for an autograph.

But the director became increasingly more nervous: he realized that he had a Quaalude in his pocket and tried unsuccessfully to drop it discreetly to the ground. An officer saw the attempt and pocketed the pill. Police wouldn’t need that pill for evidence, though; they found a vial of the drug in the hotel room. They confiscated the photos from the first photo shoot featuring Samantha topless, as well as rolls of film.

The arrest of Angelica Huston

Meanwhile, back at the Nicholson house, during questioning and a review of the house using a warrant, Anjelica Huston was found to be in possession of drugs – cocaine and pot – and was also arrested. She would later cut a deal with the prosecution to testify against Polanski in exchange for the dismissal of her drug-possession charges.

At 1 a.m. in the morning, Polanski was finally booked. One of the officers yelled at Polanski: “What the hell do you think you’re doing, going around and raping kids?”

Polanski was released on bail. As he drove to a friend’s house (foregoing the hotel which the press had already begun staking out), he listens to the radio reports. Whether or not he is cleared, he knew that he was finished in Hollywood.

Conflicting accounts emerge

Did Polanski believe he had done nothing wrong; was he so accustomed to sleeping with younger girls impressed by his power and fame that it seemed like nothing at all to drug and sexually assault a 13-year-old? He told his attorney Douglas Dalton a version of the events that is similar to, but varies dramatically in tone from, Samantha’s account.

He said that she’d had two glasses of champagne. “It was dusky,” he recalled. “I said we should call her mother. She talked and I talked… She told her mother about the Jacuzzi and that she was going in.”

He continued: “I found a little box in the bathroom with Quaalude pieces marked ‘Rorer.’ She took one piece. There was conversation about it, but there was no actual offer by me.”

And he maintained, “I went to the bedroom. She never objected. No, we didn’t discuss birth control pills there, we discussed them later the car. There was no discussion about her period. I withdrew before climax. There was no discussion about what to tell her mother. The whole thing was very spontaneous. It was not planned.”

Roman Polanski’s plea

An image from the documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired."

On April 15, the court was convened for the preliminary hearing in Santa Monica. As expected, the media presence was overwhelming, as the international foreign press had descended on the beach-side town. Protesters and hucksters lined the street: one man sold both “Free Polanski” and “Jail Polanski” t-shirts. The prosecutor, Roger Gunson, was described as resembling Robert Redford. Roger Gunson was a respected lawyer with reddish blonde hair and good looks. He was a straight-talking Mormon, who was a perfect match for Polanski’s own lawyer, Douglas Dalton, who was measured and low-key.

They quickly reached a plea deal for the director, in part to spare the girl and her family unwanted scrutiny. The prosecution knew that victims are often reluctant to testify in open court. And Samantha’s semen-stained panties provided damning physical evidence providing strong motivation for the defense to plead out.

On August 8, Polanski entered a plea of guilty to one count: “unlawful intercourse” or statutory rape. Though the more salacious charges involving sodomy, drugs and alcohol were dropped, it was still possible — though unlikely — that Polanski could be sentenced to 50 years in prison.

The rest might have been cut and dry, but there remained sentencing and the judge, Laurence J. Rittenband, was known to sway with media pressure.

The judge’s first ruling

By the time he presided over the Polanski case, Judge Rittenband already had a notable career. He was accustomed to handling celebrity cases, having ruled on Elvis Presley’s divorce, Marlon Brando’s custody battle, and Cary Grant’s paternity suit. He seemed to relish being in the limelight and enjoyed proceeding over the high-profile cases.

In his own world, he was something of a celebrity himself. He was a well-known, longstanding member Hillcrest Country Club in Beverly Hills, where he often mingled with movie stars, and was still a bachelor at the age of 71. A girlfriend noted that he loved champagne.

Throughout the Polanski proceedings, he was mercurial, swinging between congenial and stern, swinging from seemingly impartial to sympathetic toward Polanski. Still, he was known to be a tough judge and tough sentencer. Steve Barshop, a now-retired attorney, said, “If you didn’t have the deal in place when you went in there, you were in trouble.”

Many felt Rittenband was in love with the spotlight. Samantha herself said:

“I was young but I felt the judge was enjoying the publicity. The judge didn’t care about what happened to me, the judge didn’t care about what happened to Polanski. He was orchestrating some sort of show I didn’t want to be in.”

Certainly, several of his actions were unorthodox. He was press-savvy and took pains to make comments that would help shape the way the story was covered.  He even gave courtroom “reservations” to different publications fighting to cover the trial.

The initial sentencing appeared to be cut and dry. The judge ordered Polanski evaluated by two psychiatrists to clear him of being a mentally disordered sex offender. Sentencing would follow. Polanski was evaluated and passed with flying colors.

But prior to the sentencing date, Rittenbad held a private meeting with the prosecution and defense teams to share with them the findings of the two court appointed psychologists, and to tell them how he was going to rule — he would recommend a 90-day sentence for diagnostic study at the California Institute for Men at Chino, essentially further psychiatric evaluation. Rittenbad told the lawyers that he would be walking through the two psychologists’ recommendations and would then state his ruling. The lawyers were to pretend they didn’t know how he was going to rule. Implicit in this was the understanding that Polanski wouldn’t be sentenced to hard time in a prison and would receive probation.

Roman Polanski’s raucous lifestyle angers the judge

Until then, Polanski was free to go to finish a movie overseas. He was allowed 90 days, and every 90 days Dalton could request a continuance for up to a year. But while overseas, Polanski went to Germany and attended an Oktoberfest event in Munich. He was with several people, including several women, in a crowd of 10,000 people in a tent. A photographer passing by noticed him, and snapped a few quick shots of the director lounging with women, smoking a cigar, and drinking beer. The photos were swiftly published around the world.

For someone who was supposed to be hard at work on his next project, it was not a good look. Rittenband was incensed and believed he’d been duped. He was embarrassed. All bets were off. He wanted Polanski back in the country and made clear that prison might now be back on the table.

After testimony from all parties, the judge found that Roman Polanski was indeed working, but Rittenband was still irate. No further stays were granted and Polanski, then prepping his next movie, Hurricane, went into protective custody at Chino. At Chino, Polanski was put on cleaning detail. After serving 42 days, he was released — the psychological report recommended probation.

The judge toughens the sentence

The media was having a heyday. Rittenbrad was drawing out the sentencing, and it seemed that Polanski would be walking away from any serious time. It then leaked that Rittenband was considering a serious penalty of time in jail — he had casually made a comment to someone at the country club.

Rittenband then called the attorneys for both parties back to the chambers and explained that he was going to toughen the sentence. He wanted Polanski to make up the rest of the 90 days at Chino; to make sure that the sentence looked robust enough for the press. Then, evidently believing that Polanski’s moral breach justified sending him out of the country, he indicated that he wanted Polanski to volunteer to be deported. But there was a catch — Rittenbrad had no power to compel Polanski to do so.

The day before sentencing, Dalton told Polanski that he thought that the sentencing could likely be overturned on appeal — although it would take time, time during which Polanski could be in custody. Dalton told Polanski that Rittenband had mentioned deportation. Polanski asked if they could trust the judge to honor the original plea deal, and Dalton told him no.

Roman Polanski flees the country

On February 1, 1978, Polanski fled. He drove to the Beverly Hills house of Dino DeLaurentis, the Italian producer. The producer gave him $1,000 in cash. Polanski then drove to Los Angeles International Airport and bought a one-way ticket to London. In London, Polanski then quickly bought another one-way ticket to Paris, where he has lived since.

“I ran away because I think I was very unfortunate to have a judge who misused justice.  I was some kind of mouse with which an abominable cat was picking for sport.”

Dalton filed a motion to have the judge dismissed for prejudice. Rittenband was removed.

Polanski picked Paris because he was citizen of France by birth and because French law made it only discretionary to send him back for a charge of unlawful sexual intercourse; it would have been mandatory if Polanski had pleaded guilty to rape.

In France, Polanski enjoyed a place in the cultural establishment. He was elected a member of the prestigious Académie des Beaux-Arts and has worked on more than a dozen movies. One of them, The Pianist, won several Oscars — including Best Director and Best Actor for the lead actor, Adrian Brody.  Polanski, of course, didn’t come to the U.S. to receive the honor.

On September 27, 2009, though, Polanski was arrested and held by Swiss authorities while traveling to Zurich, Switzerland, where he was going to receive the Golden Icon Award at the Zurich Film Festival.

Arrest and extradition attempt

Polanski’s arrest was a surprise even to him — he’d had a chalet in Gstaad for many years, and had never been arrested. Polanski had long avoided London because of his fear of extradition, but he had never had cause to suspect Swiss authorities of pursuing extradition. On July 12, 2010 however, his fears were absolved. The Swiss rejected the United States’ request for deportation and declared Polanski a “free man”. In their opinion, Polanski had already served his punishment and did not need to face a U.S. court again.  Apparently a month in jail, a week-long psychological examination, and three decades on the run was deemed enough punishment for the rape of a 13-year-old girl.

The Hollywood Reaction to the Roman Polanski saga

Polanski, briefly an outcast from Hollywood, soon became its darling. Upon the news of his Swiss arrest, many actors, actresses and other entertainment heavyweights signed petitions for his release and issued public statements in support of the director. Others continue to work for Polanski with no regrets.  The list is long, including:

  • Salman Rushdie
  • Milan Kundera
  • Neil Jordan
  • Isabelle Adjani
  • Isabelle Huppert
  • Mike Nichols
  • Diane von Furstenberg
  • Paul Auster
  • Woody Allen
  • Pedro Almodovar
  • Wes Anderson
  • Darren Aronofsky
  • Sigourney Weaver
  • Harrison Ford (accepted his Oscar for him in 2003)
  • Monica Bellucci
  • Stephen Frears
  • Tilda Swinton
  • Martin Scorsese
  • David Lynch
  • Terry Gilliam
  • Kate Winslet
  • Mia Farrow
  • Harvey Weinstein
  • and many, many others.

But there is a culture war within Hollywood. One of his supporters, Emma Thompson, withdrew her support after speaking with a student at Exeter University. The student’s argument persuaded her to pull her name from the petition. Whoopi Goldberg inadvertently put her foot in her mouth on The View, when she proclaimed that it wasn’t really “rape-rape.” Harvey Weinstein dismissed it out of hand, calling the rape “this so-called rape.” Many celebrities seem to endorse the idea that the judge had badly mishandled the sentencing and that Polanski’s 42 days at Chino and the 30-plus years out of the country were punishment enough for the rape of Samantha.

But many others wonder if Polanski’s Hollywood defenders have ever bothered to read the grand jury transcripts (see transcript below) which reveal a far more troubling motive than merely inadvertent sex with a minor.

Today Polanski is a dual citizen of both France and Poland (Polish officials denied a request to deport Polanski on October 30, 2015) and remains a free man.  Following the rape of Samantha, Roman Polanski claimed he did not know her age.  He then went on to have an affair with 15-year-old Nastassja Kinski.

Additional Information

Celebrity reactions

Bernard-Henri Levy

Bernard-Henri Levy remains friends with Polanski and was quoted as saying that Polanski “perhaps had committed a youthful error”.  Roman Polanski was 43-years-old when he raped Samantha.

Frederic Mitterand

Frederic Mitterand, the French culturalminister noted that the trial of Polanski showed “the scary side of America” and described Polanski’s situation as “thrown to the lions because of ancient history”.

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi said on The View that Polanski’s crime wasn’t “rape, rape”.  Just some other form of rape.  “I know it wasn’t rape-rape.  It was something else but I don’t believe it was rape-rape.  He went to jail and when they let him out he was like, “You know what, this guy’s going to give me a hundred years in jail.  I’m not staying.” So that’s why he left.”

Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum minimized Polanski’s crime in the Washington Post claiming “there is evidence Polanski did not know her real age”.

Robert Harris

Novelist Robert Harris celebrated his friendship with Polanski (Polanski recently filmed one of Harris’ books) saying “His past did not bother me”.

Mia Farrow

In a 2005 interview, said she still regards him as a “close friend”.  She flew to London to testify in his behalf in his libel suit against Vanity Fair.

Roman Polanski (from 1979 interview with Martin Amis)

“If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press…  Judges want to f*ck young girls.  Juries want to f*ck young girls.  Everyone wants to f*ck young girls.”

Samantha Geimer reaction 30 years later

“What I will say is: it was rape. Not only because I was underage, but also because I did not consent. My hesitance to throw the word rape around is because in my own mind that word implies a level of violence that did not occur in my case. Prosecutors and others throw a lot of words around very freely. I prefer to be more thoughtful when choosing my words.”

Otto Weisser (upon Polanski’s arrest in Switzerland)

“This is for me a shock. I am ashamed to be Swiss, that the Swiss is doing such a thing to brilliant fantastic genius, that millions and millions of people love his work.  He’s a brilliant guy, and he made a little mistake 32 years ago. What a shame for Switzerland.”

Signers of petition to release Roman Polanski

When Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland on a warrant for his 1977 case, more than 100 Hollywood celebrities signed a petition to have him released from prosecution and sentencing.  The petition read, “We demand the immediate release of Roman Polanski.  Filmmakers in France, in Europe, in the United States and around the world are dismayed by this decision…  It seems inadmissible to them that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary film-makers, is used by the police to apprehend him…  Roman Polanski is a French citizen, a renown and international artist now facing extradition. This extradition, if it takes place, will be heavy in consequences and will take away his freedom.   Filmmakers, actors, producers and technicians — everyone involved in international filmmaking — want him to know that he has their support and friendship.”

Signers of the petition included:

Fatih Akin
Stephane Allagnon
Woody Allen
Pedro Almodovar
Wes Anderson
Jean-Jacques Annaud
Alexandre Arcady
Fanny Ardant
Asia Argento
Darren Aronofsky
Olivier Assayas
Alexander Astruc
Gabriel Auer
Luc Barnier
Christophe Barratier
Xavier Beauvois
Liria Begeja
Gilles Behat
Jean-Jacques Beineix
Marco Bellochio
Monica Bellucci
Djamel Bennecib
Giuseppe Bertolucci
Patrick Bouchitey
Paul Boujenah
Jacques Bral
Patrick Braoudé
Andre Buytaers
Christian Carion
Henning Carlsen
Jean-Michel Carre
Patrice Chereau
Elie Chouraqui
Souleymane Cisse
Alain Corneau
Jerome Cornuau
Miguel Courtois
Dominique Crevecoeur
Alfonso Cuaron
Luc et Jean-Pierre Dardenne
Jonathan Demme
Alexandre Desplat
Rosalinde et Michel Deville
Georges Dybman
Jacques Fansten
Joël Farges
Gianluca Farinelli
Jacques Fansten
Etienne Faure
Michel Ferry
Scott Foundas
Stephen Frears
Thierry Fremaux
Sam Gabarski
René Gainville
Tony Gatlif
Costa Gavras
Jean-Marc Ghanassia
Terry Gilliam
Christian Gion
Marc Guidoni
Buck Henry
David Heyman
Laurent Heynemann
Robert Hossein
Jean-Loup Hubert
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Gilles Jacob
Just Jaeckin
Alain Jessua
Pierre Jolivet
Kent Jones
Roger Kahane,
Nelly Kaplan
Wong Kar Waï
Ladislas Kijno
Harmony Korine
Jan Kounen
Diane Kurys
Emir Kusturica
John Landis
Claude Lanzmann
André Larquié
Vinciane Lecocq
Patrice Leconte
Claude Lelouch
Gérard Lenne
David Lynch
Michael Mann
François Margolin
Jean-Pierre Marois
Tonie Marshall
Mario Martone
Nicolas Mauvernay
Radu Mihaileanu
Claude Miller
Mario Monicelli
Jeanne Moreau
Sandra Nicolier
Michel Ocelot
Alexander Payne
Richard Pena
Michele Placido
Philippe Radault
Jean-Paul Rappeneau
Raphael Rebibo
Yasmina Reza
Jacques Richard
Laurence Roulet
Walter Salles
Jean-Paul Salomé
Marc Sandberg
Jerry Schatzberg
Julian Schnabel
Barbet Schroeder
Ettore Scola
Martin Scorcese
Charlotte Silvera
Abderrahmane Sissako
Paolo Sorrentino
Guillaume Stirn
Tilda Swinton
Jean-Charles Tacchella
Radovan Tadic
Danis Tanovic
Bertrand Tavernier
Cécile Telerman
Alain Terzian
Pascal Thomas
Giuseppe Tornatore
Serge Toubiana
Nadine Trintignant
Tom Tykwer
Alexandre Tylski
Betrand Van Effenterre
Wim Wenders

Swiss Refuse to Extradite Polanski

The 30-year flight of Roman Polanski from the legal consequences of the statutory rape of 13-year-old Samantha Jane Gailey in 1977 took another surprising turn on July 12, 2010, when the Swiss Ministry of Justice announced it would not extradite the aging auteur to the United States to face sentencing for the crime to which he had confessed. Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf declared that the Swiss government took no position on the charges against Polanski or the course of the legal proceedings from which he had fled, but rejected the extradition request because the U.S. Department of Justice had not provided all the legal records which the Swiss Ministry of Justice had requested and because Polanski had in fact had a reasonable expectation that he would not be arrested as a fugitive when he entered Switzerland in September 2009.

The U.S. Department of Justice expressed disappointment over the decision. “We are deeply disappointed,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer “We thought our extradition request was supported by the facts. We’re going to review our options.” Unfortunately, it is not clear that the U.S. Department of Justice has many options: Swiss Justice Minister Widmer-Schlumpf declared that the 76-year-old Polanski was now free, having been released in December on a $4.5 million bail, and the U.S. could not resubmit its extradition request on the charges currently outstanding against Polanski, although, she noted, the U.S. could attempt to extradite Polanski from other countries through which he might travel.

February 2003 CNN interview of Samantha Geimer

Aired February 24, 2003 – 21:00 ET

Samantha Jane Gailey trial testimony transcript

Image Credits

In-Article Image Credits

An image from the documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired." via Salon
Actress Angelica Huston via Wikipedia Commons by Mingle Media TV with usage type - Creative Commons License
Samantha Geimer, at 13, photographed by Roman Polanski via Altered Dimensions
Samantha Geimer, at 13, photographed by Roman Polanski via IMDB
Samantha Geimer, at 13, photographed by Roman Polanski via Artist Collector
Samantha Geimer as a teenager via The Guardian
Mug shot of Roman Polanski via Wikipedia Commons by Los Angeles Police Department with usage type - Public Domain. 1977
Roman Polanski et Emmanuelle Seigner au festival de Cannes via Wikipedia Commons by Georges Biard with usage type - Creative Commons License
Film director Roman Polanski in the 1960s via Wikipedia Commons by Kultura Filmowa with usage type - Public Domain. 1969

Featured Image Credit

Mug shot of Roman Polanski via Wikipedia Commons by Los Angeles Police Department with usage type - Public Domain. 1977


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