Steve Cooley tells why he decided to go after Polanski.
And the Polanksi filmmaker, Marina Zenovich, talks about inteviewing David “I was lying to make the story better” Wells.
Okay, I’ve changed my mind on Roman Polanski’s extradition. I want him hauled back, toute de suit, for his 1977 alleged drugging and rape of a 13-year-old girl.
And I want certain people from the DA’s office (or retired from the DA’s office) hauled into to court and forced to sort out their own increasingly appalling behavior.
To recap: Back in 1978, in part in response to the wishes of Polanski’s victim and her family, Polanski’s attorney Douglas Dalton and the assistant DA prosecuting the case, Roger Gunson, agreed on a plea bargain in order that Samantha Geimer would not have to undergo the trauma of a trial. Polanski pleaded guilty to having sex with a minor. In return, all other more serious charges were dropped. The judge ruled that Polanski would go for a psychological evaluation at the California Institution of Men at Chino, after which time, the judge would sentence the director according to the prison’s recommendation.
Polanski went to Chino as required. When he was released, the relevant Chino personnel recommended no more prison time.
It looked like Polanski would be released altogether for time served, as had been reportedly agreed. But in the meantime, Judge Rittenband had been chatting about Polanski with another prosecutor in the DA’s office, David Wells, who although he was not assigned to the case, knew it well, and felt strongly that Polanski should not be allowed to skate quite so easily.
Whether or not because of Wells’ extracurricular influence, Rittenband did do an about face and decided Polanski had to go back upstate. He also reportedly had additional side conversations with personal friends and even at least one reporter about his desire and/or plans to send Polanski behind bars for many decades.
According to Well’s he said as much in the courtroom—albeit out of any other attorneys’ hearing. “[He] said, â€˜Screw the deal, he’s going to state prison.’ And he said it straight to a reporter from The Outlook.”
But getting back to those cosy chit-chats between Rittenband and Wells,—again, a DA who was NOT on the case. Those talks—if they took place–were what is known as ex parte conversations, which are both unethical and illegal.
So how do we know such illegal chin wagging occurred? After all, Judge Rittenband is dead, so cannot be questioned.
Well, mostly we know because Wells went on camera and said so when he was interviewed for an HBO documentary about Polanski’s case with the unfortunate title, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.” And not only did Wells tell of conversations with Rittenband, he did so in great and colorfully convincing detail.
But then yesterday Wells decided that, upon reflection, he didn’t really, really mean what he said to those filmmakers. In fact, Wells has confessed cheerily to several newspapers and media outlets (including the LA Times), he lied about his misconduct way back when. Why? Because he thought the ex parte thingy would make a better story. “”I made that up to make the stuff look better,” Wells said.
Plus, he said, he thought the documentary would only air in France.
(Damn those unscrupulous filmmaker scum! They used the dreaded “It’ll only air in France” ploy.)
Okay, So let us get this straight: Wells, the veteran prosecutor, lied to a couple of documentary filmmakers about committing prosecutorial misconduct, thus possibly endangering an otherwise respectable career (plus a still open case)— because he thought the dramatic arc would be better? (For French audiences?)
And now, according to him, this time he is really, no-kidding, cross-his-heart-hope-to-die-stick-needle-in-his-eye telling the real and unvarnished truth about his unfortunate misconduct lie because…What? He figures screw the dramatic arc?
Uh, Yeah. Sure. That works.
Marcia Clark—yes THAT Marcia Clark—first floated this bizarre sounding tale in a column in Wednesday’s Daily Beast.
However, at some point in her lengthy essay, Clark–who said she knows the now-retired prosecutor well—let slip this interesting little moment of musing, ” For the record, if he [Wells] really did make those suggestions to the judge, I wouldn’t put it past him to fall on his sword, say he lied, and save the case.”
Great. That’s comforting to contemplate in the name of justice.
And in addition to the Wells’ did-I-or-didn’t-I stories, there is also the alleged misconduct of the late Judge Rittenband.
Bottom line, if Polanski isn’t extradited, we won’t get to sort out this circus, which badly needs sorting.
But there are other reasons.
Reason number two: Like most anyone with any sense, I’ve had it with the apologists who oppose the prosecution of the admitted pedophile Polanski on account of his past suffering (the murder of his wife Sharon Tate and child-to-be, plus his personal Holocaust traumas)—and mostly, because of his artistry.
This elitist perspective is beyond offensive. Yes, Polanski has been through terrible truama. (And, yes, Chinatown is a truly great American film.) But we don’t cut gang members one iota of slack, even though many come from horrorshow backgrounds that would give Polanski a run for his money in the suffering category.
And if talent was a get out of jail free card, as a friend of mine noted, let’s start with the Unibomber. Ted Kaczynski was a genius. (Unfortunately he was also crazy. But Polanski is also a pedophile.)
Nonetheless, more than 100 film industry figures have signed a petition asking that Polanski be released. The names include such people as . Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Wes Anderson, Michael Medavoy, Michael Mann, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Weinstein and Woody Allen. (Oh, the irony.) There was also a slew of directors from outside Hollywood like Wim Wenders and Pedro Almodovar.
A part of the text of the petition is reportedly as follows:
“We demand the immediate release of Roman Polanski. Film-makers in France, in Europe, in the United States and around the world are dismayed by this decisionâ€¦ It seems inadmissible to them that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary film-makers, is used by police to apprehend him.”
Yeeccchhh. Extradite the SOB—if only to slam the apologists upside the head. (No, I don’t think that’s a good legal reason. It’s an emotional reason.)
Yet in the end, for me, the most persuasive reason for Polanski’s extradition is contained in the written statement from the organization called SNAP—The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests—which staged a demonstration downtown on Wednesday. The statement they distributed Tuesday night read in part.
“Since his arrest and the announcement that he will be extradited to the US, some entertainment figures have expressed sympathy for him. These public statements of support… make teenagers who are being victimized now feel intimidated and hopeless, thus staying silent and enabling their predators to keep hurting them and others. Rallying around admitted child rapists also rubs salt into the wounds of other rape victims, both adults and kids,….
Despite the probable misconduct in the 1978 case, despite the DA’s office likely grandstanding and questionable priorities, despite the wishes of Polanski’s victim, SNAP expresses the perspective of hundreds and hundreds of victims of child sexual abuse.
Theirs is a collective voice that cannot be ignored.