Roman Polanski has been arrested in Switzerland... The long arm of the law, indeed: the warrant for his arrest after he fled the U.S. is thirty-one years old.
But why has he been arrested?
"I confirm that Mr Polanski has been arrested. The American authorities issued an international search request in 2005 in relation to a 1978 warrant," said Guido Balmer of the Swiss justice ministry. "There was a valid arrest request and we knew when he was coming. That's why he was taken into custody." [Guardian]
It seems that prosecutors in Los Angeles kept on trying to get him:
In Los Angeles a representative for prosecutors described the arrest as all but inevitable in a game of cat and mouse they had never stopped playing. [NY Times]
Incidentally, the same New York Times story has this intriguing sentence, near the end, after describing how Polanski had fled from the U.S. after being released from a 42-day stay in a California State prison: "He has not openly visited the country since."
Does this suggest that he might in fact have been back to the U.S., perhaps using a falsified passport? It's certainly possible...
Last year, a documentary called "Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired," retold the story of what happened factually, within the legal system and in the media, presenting a story far more fascinating and complex than I had realized. The "troubled and charming creep-genius," as one review of the documentary calls him, co-operated with the police and courts, showed up for his prison stint, left the country (with permission) for work engagements in Europe and then returned for further court appearances.
The American and European media reacted with predictably frenzied, tabloid hysteria over the case, prejudicing the case under any normal rules, according to the documentary. Opinion was split, however, between an American self-righteousness and a more languid European attitude. If Polanski was a reluctant star of the show, the judge in the case courted the media with gusto. Justice Laurence J. Rittenband
was, the film makers' said, "a man so press hungry that he kept a cuttings book inside his bailiff’s desk... as imperious and impulsive as Polanski himself."
At the time of the trial, Rittenband
had two girlfriends, one aged only 19, and he routinely spoke to the press about the case as it proceeded. He even briefed the prosecutor and Polanski's attorney on how they should argue the case, possibly with a view to getting headlines in the following day's newspapers. Now we await the filing of a U.S. extradition request with the Swiss authorities (perhaps Polanski now agrees with Gaddafi
) and Polanski will appeal... and people will argue over it
for a long time to come.