Monday, October 05, 2009

Roman Polanski, Criminal

Roman Polanski is a beloved film director who survived the Holocaust and suffered further horror as his wife was murdered by arguably the worst criminal "family" in the history of the world, the Mansons.

In 1977 he plead guilty to having sex with a 13 year old. Prior to sentencing, he fled the United States.

So what am I missing?

There appears to be three arguments going on in favor of Polanski. (1) he has had a rough life, (2) there are mitigating factors favoring dismissal of the warrant, such as the United States lack of dilligence in attempting to bring him back, and (3) someone re-neged on the deal he made, therefore justifying his fleeing the country.

Now that the dust has settled and the idiots have said their peace, let's talk reality.

I've only been practicing criminal defense for 15 years, but I am comfortable saying that there is no legal justification for fleeing the country prior to sentencing.

The argument from Polanski's supporters appears to be "c'mon, leave the guy alone, it was over 30 years ago."

Well, there's legal precedent for that. The government cannot just "sit" on a warrant and make no attempt to arrest the defendant while his whereabouts are known. Warrants get "stale." You snooze, you lose.


But not in this case. Polanski was in places, carefully chosen, that do not permit extradition. The only thing the government could have done was to lure Polanski to another country or effectively "kidnap" him.

See folks, warrants don't just go away. I just had a friend deported who was convicted over 20 years ago. He was ordered deported after his conviction. After he left prison, he lived openly under his real name, started a business, even got an American Express card. A few months ago at 6 a.m. ICE came and took him to Jamaica. his wife's still here. No one cares.

I agree with "you snooze you lose." Unfortunately, that's not generally how it works, especially post conviction.

If Roman Polanski got a raw deal or believes the warrant is "stale," or has some other legal argument why he had the right to flee, he should make it, in court, in America. I trust he has outstanding lawyers in America making every argument they can at this point. I trust their investigators have spoken with the victim and everyone else associated with the case to attempt some resolution.

I just know when I represent clients in these types of situations, most prosecutors say "when he comes back, we'll talk."

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit

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