Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

Hollywood's Most Famous Former Fugitive

After three decades on the run, Roman Polanski was arrested in September when he arrived in Switzerland to receive a lifetime achievement award at a film festival. The charges against the Oscar-winning director date back to 1977: while working in California on a photo shoot for a fashion magazine, he reportedly plied his 13-year-old subject, Samantha Gailey (now Geimer), with champagne and part of a Quaalude and had sex with her despite her pleas that he "keep away." Polanski, now 76, was indicted on six felony counts — including sodomy and child molestation — and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse, i.e., statutory rape. He was released from jail after spending 42 days there for a psychiatric evaluation but fled the country the day of his sentencing, reportedly because he thought the judge was going to send him to prison. After that, the fugitive filmmaker largely avoided countries with extradition treaties with the U.S. His sudden arrest after all these years — which was particularly strange, since Polanski frequently traveled to Switzerland, where he owns a house — sparked a furious debate about whether he should be punished for his decades-old transgressions. "I don't believe it was 'rape-rape,' " Whoopi Goldberg famously asserted on The View. Hundreds of Hollywood royals — including Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese — signed a pro-Polanski petition circulated by film producer Harvey Weinstein. Polanski's lawyers are expected to attempt to have his case dismissed on Dec. 10.