In a recent turn of events in the Roman Polanski legal drama, Swiss authorities refused to extradite the fugitive director and instead set him free.
The miscarriage of justice appears to be directly related to a decision made by the Eric Holder Department of Justice (DOJ).
In an attempt by Swiss authorities to determine whether Polanski had already served his previously imposed sentence, some sealed testimony was sought by them from the DOJ. The testimony had been given by Polanski’s original California prosecutor, Roger Gunson.
The DOJ refused to give Swiss authorities the transcripts, according to a letter from Swiss officials to the U.S. Embassy. That letter was obtained by the Associated Press.
The DOJ is claiming that the Los Angeles district attorney's office approved the DOJ’s rejection of the Swiss request. However, a district attorney spokesperson, Sandi Gibbons, told the Associated Press that the Los Angeles office was “not specifically notified of the [Swiss] request” and had no idea that the DOJ had turned down the request.
Why would the Justice Department deny a reasonable and critical request concerning a defendant who had fled the jurisdiction in order to avoid a sentence, which resulted from the defendant’s guilty plea to having had unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl?
A couple of facts point to an answer:
1. In September 2009, just days after he was arrested in Switzerland, Polanski hired a new attorney, Reid Weingarten, who was described by the New York Times as a well known Washington power player and “a former government lawyer who once worked in the Justice Department’s public integrity division.”
The Times referred to Weingarten as one of Attorney General Holder’s “closest friends.”
The newspaper saw the recruiting of Weingarten as “a strong signal that Mr. Polanski’s legal team intends to push hard on the Washington end of the case… A critical step will most likely be a move to stop the extradition before United States authorities send the required documents to Switzerland.”
2. In a previous column, I pointed out in that in October of 2009 attorneys for Polanski met with Justice Department officials and presented arguments against extraditing from Switzerland the then-jailed director.
According to court documents filed in Los Angeles, Polanski’s lawyers had sought help from Obama administration officials in the Justice Department, requesting that they not return the filmmaker to America.
Members of the director’s legal team met with a deputy assistant attorney general and other Justice Department officials on October 2, according to an appellate court filing.
In summary, Polanski hired a lawyer who is one of Holder’s best friends, the DOJ was lobbied to help the director avoid extradition and the DOJ managed to withhold transcripts that allowed a fugitive to escape.
In thinking about the travesty, another fugitive came to mind, one who in the past also managed to escape justice.
He was in Switzerland at the time of his indictment for evading taxes, among other things. And he, too, received a helping hand from none other than Holder, who gave then-exiting President Bill Clinton a pardon recommendation for the ex-spouse of a big Democrat donor.
His name was Marc Rich.