That Said...

I don't really buy that Polanski's prosecutor lied in Wanted And Desired:

"I lied," Wells told me yesterday, referring to his comments in the movie that he told the judge how he could renege on a plea-bargain agreement and send Polanski back to jail after he had been released from a 42-day psychiatric evaluation--the heart of Polanski's claims of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct. "I know I shouldn't have done it, but I did. The director of the documentary told me it would never air in the States. I thought it made a better story if I said I'd told the judge what to do."

Recanting these statements is a bombshell.

No they aren't. They're largely beside the point. Leaving aside the preposterous nature of this excuse, Polanski seems to have a case for judicial misconduct. But there's a way to handle that, and it isn't by fleeing the country. From Jessica Grose:

Worst for Polanski, however, is probably the provocation that he himself gave to prosecutors. In 1978, when he was brought to trial, Polanski fled because he believed the judge sentencing him was not going to accept the plea bargain he'd agreed to, a 90-day mental evaluation at Chico State Prison. In 2008, filmmaker Marina Zenovich--who had no prior relationship with Polanski--released a documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, that corroborated Polanski's fear that his plea bargain wouldn't have taken effect. Polanski tried to use the information presented in the film to get his case dismissed. Even the prosecutor from the original trial said in the documentary that he didn't think the judge, who is now dead, had been fair to Polanski.

And for a while, it seemed as if Polanksi's strategy might work. Earlier this year, a new judge was willing to consider dismissing the case against him. But first, he wanted Polanski to show up in court. Polanski, however, would not appear.

This is Polanski's biggest problem: The judge's terms were reasonable. He gave Polanski three months to surface in L.A. and even hinted that the director would probably not serve jail time if he appeared. And yet Polanski refused. From the point of view of prosecutors, Polanski practically dared them to act. Gailey, too, has said that she would like to see him come back to deal with the case, though she has publicly forgiven him. "I hope that would mean I'd never have to talk about this again," she said in 2003 of his return. "Sometimes I feel like we both got a life sentence."


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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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