84-year-old Roman Polanski’s sexual assault victim Samantha Geimer, now 54 appeared in a Los Angeles Superior Court on June 9th to implore Judge Scott Gordon to end the four-decade-old legal case against him. This is a very unusual request, but Geimer feels that the court should honor her wishes regarding the case.
Film director, producer, writer, actor, and convicted statutory rapist Roman Polanski’s sexual assault case is now a part of unfortunate Hollywood lore. By the late 70’s Polanski was already heralded as a legendary director, having directed the critically acclaimed Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby. However, everything changed when the filmmaker was arrested for the rape of then 13-year-old Samantha Jane Gailey (her maiden name).
On March 10, 1977, Polanski who was 43 at the time had been shooting photos of Geimer at Actor Jack Nicholson’s compound in the Hollywood Hills when he gave her champagne and part of a sedative pill before raping her, according to grand jury transcripts. Nicholson was not home at the time.
After he was arrested, Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor in exchange for dropping drug, rape and sodomy charges. Polanski underwent a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation, and a report was submitted to the court recommending probation. However, upon learning that he was likely to face imprisonment and deportation, Polanski fled to France in February 1978, hours before he was to be formally sentenced.
Since then Polanski has mostly lived in France and has avoided visiting countries likely to extradite him to the United States. Nevertheless, Polanski continued to make critically acclaimed films while remaining a fugitive from American justice.
Polanski has always contended that he is the victim of judicial misconduct. This is because the now-deceased judge who handled the original case suggested in private remarks that he would renege on a plea agreement. The plea deal called for Polanski to serve no more time behind bars for the director after he already spent 42 days in a prison. Apparently, Geimer agrees with Polanski.
Geimer was critical of the district attorney’s office for its stance and for not investigating allegations that a former prosecutor not assigned to Polanski’s case improperly influenced the original judge in the case. Therefore, she formally asked Judge Scott Gordon to either dismiss the case outright or sentence the Oscar winner to the six weeks he already served in prison
“The trauma of the ordeal that followed was so great that, you know, the brief encounter with him that evening that was unpleasant just faded and paled,” Samantha Geimer said seemingly empathizing with Polanski. “It just wasn’t as traumatic for me as everybody would like to believe it was.”
“I implore you to consider taking action to finally bring this matter to a close as an act of mercy to myself and my family,” Geimer added. She also called for an end to “a 40-year sentence which has been imposed on the victim of a crime as well as the perpetrator.”
Historically, the victim of a crime hasn’t had much of a role in a criminal proceeding except for testifying in the trial. Largely, the focus of the trial rests on the defendant and their alleged actions or crimes. This is due to the fact that the defendant is the one facing a potential punishment or restriction of their liberties and/or rights. Because of this, some critics have argued that the criminal justice system places the rights of defendants ahead of the rights of the victims of the crime.
However, since the earlier 1980s, many states have enacted legislation that grants rights to victims of crimes to be included in the criminal proceeding. These rights cover everything from notice of the trial to being allowed to contribute in the sentencing hearing after a conviction.
Generally, most victims of a crime will advocate for harsh punishments for the defendant who committed the crime. However, this is not always the case. Regardless of the crime, whether it is murder or simple vandalism, some victims may find it in their heart to forgive a defendant for the harm which they have caused the victim. Even so, although a victim may contribute their opinion, the judge is not required to take into account the victim’s opinion of what an appropriate punishment would be.
“If I was standing here saying, ‘Throw the book at him, I want him in jail for life,’ my opinion would count,” Geimer said. “When I’m standing here saying, ‘I’m fine and nothing you can do to him will help me or anybody else,’ suddenly it’s the state not me that counts. It’s a really hypocritical view.”
Geimer has long supported Polanski’s efforts to end the case that limits his movements to three European countries, but it was the first time she spoke in favor of him in court. She said she had suffered four decades of insults and mistreatment and has been hounded by the news media.
The original judge in the case asked if she was part of a mother-daughter prostitution team, the former district attorney suggested she had been paid off and others said she was a lying gold digger and a drug-dealing Lolita who trapped Roman Polanski.
She said does not dismiss Polanski’s responsibility and does not view him as a victim, but has empathy for the way he’s been treated by the legal system and feels his family has suffered.
The judge praised Geimer for her courage and noted that he would take the matter under consideration. This is far different than the position the judge has taken before. The judge has consistently replied to Polanski’s pleas to drop the case by stating that he must appear in court to face the music.