Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Polanski probation report

The New York Times reported the following in regards to the September 1977 Polanski probation report-

The report, submitted by acting probation officer Kenneth F. Fare, and signed by a deputy, Irwin Gold, recommended that Mr. Polanski receive probation without jail time for his conviction on one count of having unlawful sex with a minor. In a summary paragraph, the report said: “Jail is not being recommended at the present time. The present offense appears to have been spontaneous and an exercise of poor judgement by the defendant.” It went on to note that the victim and her parent, as well as an examining psychiatrist, recommended against jail, while a second psychiatrist described the offense as neither “aggressive nor forceful.”

Despite Ms. Geimer’s age and her testimony that she had objected to having sex with Mr. Polanski and asked to leave Jack Nicholson’s house, where the incident occurred, the probation report concluded, “There was some indication that circumstances were provocative, that there was some permissiveness by the mother,” and “that the victim was not only physically mature, but willing.”…

The report paints a sympathetic picture of Mr. Polanski’s background. Compiled when Mr. Polanski was 44, the report began with an account of his fractured childhood. It described his birth to a Polish national father, Riszard Polanski, and a Russian national mother, Bula Katz, and told how his Jewish family was confined behind barbed wire in a Krakow ghetto during the German occupation.

In 1941, the report noted, Mr. Polanski’s mother was taken to Auschwitz, not to return. Later it said, “the defendant’s father cut the wires permitting the defendant to escape” the ghetto, to spend the war with Polish families.

Recapping the defendant’s background, the report said Mr. Polanski was blocked from attending advanced art school after the war “because of his Jewish origins,” lost his religious faith, and twice suffered a fractured skull, once as the result of an assault in Poland, once after a car accident. It noted a first marriage in Poland, and a second to the actress Sharon Tate, who, it said, “was killed by members of the Manson gang in Los Angeles in the well-documented case in 1968.”

Mr. Polanski’s income in 1976 was recorded as being $60,000. His local residence was the Chateau Marmont. He admitted to smoking an occasional marijuana cigarette and to having used cocaine once, but was self-described as only a “social drinker.”

According to the report, Mr. Polanski had no past criminal record, though the district attorney’s office on Aug. 10, 1977, had rejected a complaint alleging grand theft property and misdemeanor assault and battery. The complaint resulted from a visit to the grave of his wife, Sharon Tate, in Culver City, Calif.: Mr. Polanski took the camera from a German photographer who tried to photograph him from some bushes, but the district attorney decided he was simply trying to “protect his right of privacy.”

The report noted all of the assertions Ms. Geimer made in her grand jury testimony, along with the list of original charges, which included rape by drugs and sodomy. It also noted that a test “strongly indicates semen” on the girl’s underclothes, but that vaginal and anal slides were negative, and there was no evidence of physical trauma…

Mr. Polanski, interviewed by the probation officer, said he had not realized that his request to photograph Ms. Geimer without a top was problematic. “Topless photograph is acceptable in Europe. I didn’t realize it was objectionable here,” he said.

According to Mr. Polanski, “the whole thing was very spontaneous. It was not planned,” he told the probation officer. And, said the report, he “expressed great remorse regarding any possible effect the present offense might have upon the victim.”

According to the report, a number of Hollywood luminaries submitted letters endorsing Mr. Polanski’s good character. They included the set designer Richard Sylbert; the producers Howard W. Koch, Dino De Laurentiis and Robert Evans; and the actress Mia Farrow.

One psychiatrist who examined Mr. Polanski, Alvin E. Davis, found he was not mentally ill or disordered, and not “a sexual deviate.” “He is of superior intelligence, has good judgement and strong moral and ethical values,” the report said of Dr. Davis’s conclusions.

“He is not a pedophile,” Dr. Davis is quoted as saying. “The offense occurred as an isolated instance of transient poor judgement and loss of normal inhibitions in circumstances of intimacy and collaboration in creative work, and with some coincidental alcohol and drug intoxication.”

Dr. Davis was also quoted as saying that “incarceration would serve no necessary or useful purpose.” Another psychiatrist, Dr. Ronald Markman, was quoted as saying that Mr. Polanski was “not a mentally disordered sex offender, and therefore, not in need of hospitalization.”

With that information in hand, the probation officer went on to describe a culture clash that occasionally occurred when creators from Europe fled the Nazis and Communism to reside in Los Angeles. “Possibly not since Renaissance Italy has there been such a gathering of creative minds in one locale as there has been in Los Angeles County during the past half century,” said the report. “While enriching the community with their presence, they have brought with them the manners and mores of their native lands which in rare instances have been at variance with those of their adoptive land.”

So, the report concluded, remorse, cultural differences, a certain permissiveness and provocation, and the unlikelihood of a repeat offense conspired to make probation without jail (beyond the 42 days Mr. Polanski served while being evaluated) an appropriate punishment for Mr. Polanski’s actions toward a 13-year-old girl. But Mr. Polanski fled when Judge Laurence J. Rittenband indicated that more jail time and possible deportation were in order.

And, having been apprehended in Switzerland, Mr. Polanski is now up against the manners and mores of an era that often takes a harsher view of sex crimes.

What LA County Probation did is what probation authorities are supposed to do and that is to look at the individual offender and to reach a recommendation based on the specifics of the individual. Of course, what we find at the present time is a position advocated by many that Polanski’s background, and prior traumas are simply irrelevant in terms of how he should be punished. These advocates have what apears to be a robotic view of justice. One looks at the specifics of the criminal behavior, and reaches a verdict based on those specifics; one does not look at background specifics of the offender.

Such represents a dehumanized form of justice. Even the victim is not deemed to play a role in determining the sentence. In the present case, the victim, who is now an adult, her feelings about Mr. Polanski are deemed to be irrelevant.

Of course, what we are too often dealing with in the present case are those who are seeking vengeance. They are not interested in any dispassionate analysis of Mr. Polanski or even Ms. Geimer. They seek to inflame self and others by reviewing the details of Mr. Polanski’s crime not with the goal of understanding but rather with the goal of getting their pound of flesh. They demean and discard persons who believe that Mr. Polanski should not be in jail or go to jail as persons who support rape and rapists and child molesters or our simply uncaring members of a so-called Hollywood elite.

I am not a member of any Hollywood elite. I am not supportive of rape and child molestation. I am supportive of a humanistic criminal justice system. And in regards to Polanski, I am supportive of the LA Probation Department’s recommendations. Unfortunately for Roman Polanski, he would have had a much greater chance of justice in Los Angeles in 1977 than in 2009. Best for him and for us that he is not extradicted to the United States and be subjected to the wrath of the self-righteous.

October 9, 2009 Posted by | anti-semitism, ethics, rape, Roman Polanski, sex, sexual politics | 3 Comments


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