Why Nab Roman Polanski Now? Revenge

Sep 28, 09 | 8:55 AM   byMichael Wolff
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This is what they have been doing in the Los Angeles Country district attorney’s office: they have been Googling “Roman Polanski.”

Polanski, the French movie director who fled the US 31 years ago after pleading guilty in a murky case involving sex with an underage model, was arrested over the weekend in Switzerland on a US warrant issued in Los Angeles. The LA prosecutor’s office described the arrest, according to the New York Times, “as all but inevitable in a game of cat and mouse they had never stopped playing.”

That is, of course, baloney. There is nothing inevitable about catching a famous person who has not been in hiding after 31 years. Indeed, he didn’t just riskily or mistakenly show up in Switzerland, he owned a house there. They didn’t catch him, because they weren’t looking for him. But then, the advantages of finding him changed.

Prosecutors are the scariest people in a democracy because they can have you arrested and put in jail. They can do this essentially at will, if arresting you suits their purposes. Alternatively, they can not arrest you if that suits their purposes. One reason prosecutors can function at such a level of virtually no accountability is because, while almost all other public servants have terrible press, law enforcement agencies have always used their muscle to maintain good press (there is even a further point about, specifically, the LA prosecutor’s office and its relationship to the prosecutor’s image in television and movies).

Arresting Polanski is about the LA prosecutor’s office's public relations.

Prosecutors ignored Polanski for 30 years because it was a terrible case in which the prosecutor's office and the sitting judge, in the interest of getting publicity for themselves, had conducted themselves in all variety of dubious ways. But then, last year, a documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, came out detailing all this dubiousness. So the first motivation for going after Polanski now, as it so often is with prosecutors, is revenge—Polanski and this film makes the DA look bad. The second is that the documentary reminded everybody that the LA prosecutor must be turning a blind eye to Polanski, wandering freely in Europe—hence the arrest now is the prosecutor covering his ass. The third is—and it’s curiously the success of the documentary that made the LA prosecutor’s office realize the brand name significance of the case—press. The headlines now sweeping the world are the prosecutor’s ultimate benefit. Many careers are suddenly advanced.

It could tell us quite a lot about the real motivations and real interest in Roman Polanski in the LA prosecutor’s office, about the sudden enthusiasm for Polanski’s capture and the convenient timing of it, if we just got the date and time—Polanski’s lawyers can certainly get this information through discovery requests—when they began to Google him, and when they set up the first alert.

Among all media whores, there is none so greedy and mendacious as a prosecutor.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at You can also follow him on Twitter:
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