That there is any debate whatsoever about the extradition of fugitive film director Roman Polanski to the United States for a crime committed here 32 years ago is an indication just how wrong-headed some folks and supposed friends of ours are.

That there is any debate whatsoever about the extradition of fugitive film director Roman Polanski to the United States for a crime committed here 32 years ago is an indication just how wrong-headed some folks and supposed friends of ours are.


In 1977 Polanski drugged a 13-year-old girl, got her drunk and forced sex upon her in Los Angeles. A 13-year-old does not consent to sex with a 40-something man who obviously holds all the cards in that situation. Polanski pleaded guilty to the crime - not to rape, which it essentially was, but to the lesser charge of having unlawful sex with a minor. Then he skipped the country and had a jolly old time for three decades - mostly in France, which effectively has no extradition treaty with the U.S. - as if he'd done nothing at all.


Of course he should have to come back and explain himself to an American judge. And of course he should go to jail for a while.


Polanski was arrested recently in Zurich, Switzerland, where he had gone to accept a lifetime achievement award for his work in the film industry and where he now sits in detention, awaiting extradition.


It matters not - as some have argued - that he is 76 years old, that he is a great artist who makes films people pay to see, that he suffered personal tragedy prior to his crime or that his victim, now in her mid-40s, has moved on with her life and forgiven him. Certain misbehaviors simply demand justice if civilized people are to live amongst one another, and this is one of them. If Polanski had taken his lumps before this it would have been long behind him and he could have continued making movies - since when does Hollywood cling to standards of right and wrong? - without a care in the world.


The French government has since officially dropped its defense of Polanski, but only after some initial squawking, with its foreign minister describing his arrest and the U.S. Justice Department's continued pursuit of him as "a little sinister" and its minister of culture - culture! - saying he was "thrown to the lions for an old story." Really? Is the rape of 13-year-old girls legal in France? If so, then that's "a little sinister." What kind of "culture" is it that shrugs such crimes off with the passage of time? Arguably a corrupt one.


We trust France's top politicians would not forfeit their own daughters to the likes of a Roman Polanski. Would Polanski surrender his own?


It's simple: Any society that forgives and forgets this will tolerate far worse. Frankly we're tired of wealthy and influential and famous scumbags - if only John Edwards were reading - getting away with stuff that violates every standard of decent behavior, criminal or not.


It should not matter whether you're a celebrity or a popular athlete, a factory worker or a secretary; Lady Justice must be blind. No one should get a pass, certainly not Roman Polanski.


Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star