Director Roman Polanski fled the United States in 1978 to avoid what was likely to be a 90-day sentence for unlawful sex with a minor. We recently stated that such a crime today would be treated much more harshly, and the Los Angeles Times on Thursday published an analysis of sentences for similar crimes that found a contemporary Polanski would be looking at a year in jail or as much as 16 months in prison.
It's not at all certain that Polanski, who faces extradition to the United States for the 1977 conviction after being nabbed in Switzerland recently, would be sentenced based on today's guidelines or yesteryear's expectations. He had already served 42 days behind bars when he was about to be sentenced.
Also, it's not clear if a judge would add time to Polanski's sentence for running from the court in 1978. He fled to France and was arrested at the behest of the Los Angeles District Attorney's office when he traveled to Switzerland to pick up an award. Polanski is considered to be one of the greatest contemporary film directors, and his resume includes one of Hollywood's all-time greats, Chinatown, which is also a story about the history and development of modern Los Angeles.
The Times states that convicts like Polanski, who plead down from harsher charges such as rape and sodomy, are often given more punitive sentences than, say, a 20-year-old man who had consensual sex with a girlfriend who is 16. Polanski was 44 when he had sex with a 13-year-old, originally alleged to have happened by force, in Los Angeles).
“In 42% of those cases, defendants were sentenced to at least 16 months in prison, where the most serious offenders are housed,” states the Times. “Many of those defendants had criminal records, which Polanski does not … In all but one of the remaining cases, the offenders were sent to jail. The median sentence was a year, the maximum possible in a county facility.”