Polanski would face tougher prosecution today
By GILLIAN FLACCUS (AP) – 3 hours ago
LOS ANGELES — If Roman Polanski were charged with child rape today, DNA evidence, stiffer penalties, outcry over childhood sexual abuse and tougher scrutiny of celebrity justice would make prosecutors much less willing to cut the plea deal the director received more than 30 years ago, legal experts say.
For one thing, changes in state law since the 1970s would give prosecutors other options in pursuing charges, including a law that includes a mandatory 15 years to life in state prison for rape, sodomy or a lewd act with a child coupled with certain circumstances, such as the use of a controlled substance, said Robin Sax, a former sex crimes prosecutor with the district attorney's office.
"He should be shutting up and thanking goodness for his sentence," said Sax, who is also a victim's advocate. "There's one part of me that says, 'Bring it on, you want your trial? Let's let everyone here see what the evidence really is.'"
Polanski was accused of plying a 13-year-old girl with champagne and part of a Quaalude during a modeling shoot in 1977 and raping her. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy.
The director pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse; in exchange, the remaining charges were dropped, and the judge agreed to send Polanski to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. But Polanski was released after 42 days and fled the country on the eve of his Feb. 1, 1978 sentencing after the judge reportedly told lawyers he planned to add more prison time.
"I intended that he at least serve a full 90 days in state prison," Superior Court Judge Laurence Rittenband said in an AP story from the time.
Rittenband also called the prison psychiatric report on Polanski "a complete whitewash" and told reporters he believed it didn't adequately explore Polanski's reasons for committing the sex offense.
Victims of clergy sexual abuse staged a protest outside the district attorney's office Wednesday to protest celebrities who have publicly supported Polanski since his arrest in Zurich, Switzerland over the weekend.
"It is very, very similar to the allegations against the priests ... and no one says that we should just ignore the priest pedophilia," said Katie Buckland, executive director of the California Women's Law Center and former Los Angeles city attorney, who was not affiliated with the protesters.
An HBO documentary released last year suggested judicial misconduct surrounding Polanski's plea deal. The victim, who didn't want to testify against him at the time, has joined in Polanski's bid for dismissal, which is currently before a California appellate court.
Chad Hummel, Polanski's attorney, declined to comment Wednesday.
Experts watching the case unfold on two continents say in today's climate, Polanski would have very little chance of getting the sort of plea deal he got in 1977 — judicial misconduct or not.
"I think we treat sex and sex with minor cases now much more severely than we did then," said Stan Goldman, a law professor at Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. "I think Polanski or anybody today would be looking at massive amounts of time in jail ... in light of the allegation, as originally charged, that this was forcible, and that he fed her drugs."