Published September 29, 2009
Hollywood moguls are pressuring California lawmakers to do what they can to stop the extradition of Roman Polanski, aiming to prevent the Oscar-winning director from being forcibly returned to the U.S. to do time for raping a 13-year-old girl in the 1970s.
The only problem — the government isn't interested.
Actors and actresses from Harrison Ford to Debra Winger have reportedly joined the growing throng of liberal celebrities calling for Polanski to be released following his arrest in Switzerland last week.
Studio kingpin Harvey Weinstein says he is leading the charge and "e-mailing everybody I know" to push for the swift release of his friend, whom he calls a "humanist" who has been the victim of a gross "miscarriage of justice" for more than three decades.
"We will have to speak to our leaders ... particularly in California," Weinstein wrote in an op-ed Tuesday. "I'm not too shy to go and talk to the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and to ask him once and for all to look at this."
Scores of American film icons from Woody Allen to Martin Scorsese have signed a petition demanding "the immediate release of Roman Polanski," saying they were "dismayed" by his arrest.
But the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, which is seeking to have Polanski extradited to California, isn't interested in petitions from the stars — it has a job to do, DA spokewoman Jane Robison told FOXNews.com.
Will the DA respond to pressure from Tinseltown's biggest bigwigs?
Will the DA consider their plea to give up on extradition?
Does the DA have any plans to meet with the directors allying themselves with Polanski?
Even before Weinstein enlisted the left wing in his fight to free the famed director of "Chinatown," "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Pianist," celebrities were picking up the drumbeat.
Whoopi Goldberg used her spot on ABC's "The View" to try to clear up the record regarding the crime to which Polanski pleaded guilty in 1978.
"I know it wasn't 'rape' rape. I think it was something else, but I don't believe it was 'rape' rape," said Goldberg, dismissing the possibility that Polanski had forced himself on anyone.
"He pled guilty to having sex with a minor and he went to jail, and when they let him out (on bail, pending sentencing), he said, 'You know what, this guy's going to give me 100 years in jail. I'm not staying.' And that's why he left.
"So that's why I wanted to be really clear," Goldberg said, "cause I want to know exactly what I'm talking about."
Here's exactly what Whoopi is talking about: In March 1977, the 44-year-old Polanski fed a 13-year-old girl champagne and a sedative, forced himself on her and anally raped her, according to the girl's grand jury testimony. He was convicted of a lesser charge — statutory rape — because he agreed to plead guilty.
Polanski spent 42 days in a mental institution and had been led to expect that it would be considered "time served," and that he would be freed on probation. But when he came to believe that the presiding judge would sentence him to years in prison instead, Polanski jumped bail and fled to France.
He has been living comfortably in Europe for the past three decades. But on Saturday, as he was flying to Switzerland to attend the Zurich Film Festival, he was picked up by Swiss authorities acting on longstanding requests from the U.S. to arrest him.
Actress Debra Winger, the president of the Zurich film festival's jury, blasted Switzerland for its "philistine collusion" with the U.S. in arresting Polanski, who was honored by the festival Sunday night even though he was in jail.
While prosecutors in the U.S. continue to press their case to bring Polanski back to California, some filmmakers abroad are rallying to his cause.
Weinstein's friend Thierry Fremaux, the director of the Cannes Film Festival, reached out to French authorities after Polanski's arrest, and the country's foreign minister quickly dispatched a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for filmmaker's freedom.
The State Department would not confirm the receipt of the letter, or of one from the foreign minister of Poland, where Polanski grew up, but both countries are known to be angling for the release of the director, who is a dual French-Polish citizen.
As Polanski fights to have his arrest overturned in Switzerland, even Hollywood's bitter broadsheets have been laying off the fugitive.
The senior editor of the gossip magazine In Touch said in a television interview he couldn't believe the justice system is still going after Polanski 30 years after his initial arrest, and after his victim, Samantha Geimer, has publicly forgiven Polanski.
"It's mind-boggling why they're still pursuing this," said Tom O'Neill. "It just seems that the prosecutors in Los Angeles won't let go these many years later."