February 1, 1978: Roman Polanski Flees To France After Raping 13-Year-Old


On February 1st, 1978, coming off of a 42-day stint in jail for psychological evaluation, film-maker and child rapist Roman Polanski fled the U.S. to England and then France while awaiting sentencing for an unlawful sexual act with a minor.

At the time, he was one of the most celebrated film-makers in the world.

Throughout the entire ordeal, the facts remained the same: In March of 1977, Roman Polanski (43) brought a 13-year-old girl to Jack Nicholson's home to take photos of her, he have her drinks and drugs, raped her, and then drove her home. He was arrested the following day.

He was charged on 5 counts: Rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under fourteen and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor. He ultimately entered a guilty plea to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.

He is now 86 years old, meaning he has officially spent half of his life outside of the U.S., avoiding arrest.


Polanski had asked his victim, Samantha Gailey's, mother, who was a TV actress and model, if he could take photos of her daughter for the French edition of Vogue that he was working on. She agreed and allowed her to partake in a private photo shoot.

After the first photo shoot, Gailey felt very uncomfortable, especially after Polanski had asked her to pose topless, but nevertheless agreed to a second photo shoot with him at Jack Nicholson's home.

Nicholson was on a ski trip in Colorado at the time, and his live-in girlfriend Anjelica Huston was out for the evening. However, when she came home, she was growing suspicious of what was going on between Polanski and Gailey, but she relented after he insisted they were simply finishing up the shoot.

Gailey knew she was in a bad situation, but wasn't sure how to get out of it. She was asked to lie down and she said no over and over again, but was ignored. He raped her orally, vaginally and anally. She had been given champagne and Quaaludes beforehand.

Polanski admits to having sex with her but insists it was consensual, that she didn't ask him to stop, that she wasn't drugged, and that she never responded negatively when she was asked if she was enjoying yourself. Sorry dude, you're 43 and she's in middle school, I don't think this argument really works.


He was told he had to report to a state prison for a 90-day psychological evaluation, but he was granted a stay so he could travel out of the country to finish up a project. Because, rich and white.

When he wrapped up the project, he returned to the Chino State Prison for the evaluation period, and was released after 42 days. The probation officer, psychiatrist and even the victim all recommended against jail time, so it was assumed he'd simply get probation at his sentencing and move on.

However, LA Deputy District Attorney David Wells found images of Polanski at Oktoberfest, touching and being extremely close to many underage girls in attempt to convince the judge not to release him, as he was a danger.

Polanski's attorneys say that the judge suggested that he would be sent to prison and then deported. So, with the threat of imprisonment looming, he bought a 1-way ticket out of the United States before he could be sentenced.

He first went to London where he had a home, but a day later, headed to France where he held citizenship, as France can refuse to extradite his own citizens. He never returned to England and sold his home there. He avoids traveling to certain countries because the U.S. could request arrest and extradition in some of them.


In 1979, Polanski gave an interview where he said: If I had killed somebody, it wouldn't have seen so much appeal to the press. "But... fucking, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to fuck young girls. Juries want to fuck young girls. Everyone wants to fuck young girls."

Gailey sued him, alleging sexual assault and infliction of emotional distress. It was settled out of court, with the court claiming he owed her over $600,000, but it is unclear if any of this has ever been paid.

She believes that what he did was wrong, but that it was a mistake and he isn't a terrible person or a danger to society, though she wishes he'd return to the U.S. so it could officially be over.

Polanski was arrested in 2009 at the Zurich Airport on the way to claim his Lifetime Achievement Award at the Zurich Film Festival. He was put in "provisional detention" and appealed extradition. On October 6, his initial request for bail was refused. Ultimately, on July 12, 2010, the Swiss courts rejected the U.S. request to extradite him and he was released from custody.

Foreign ministers from both France and Poland, where he had dual-citizenship, urged Switzerland to release him, but eventually withdrew his support.


Though Roman Polanski was convicted of raping and sodomizing a child, and admitted at least to having sex with her making him a pedophile guilty of statutory rape at the least, many people supported him and still do.

The perception of him was split, with many in Europe seeing him as a tragic artist, brought to ruins by the corruption in the United States, whereas people in the U.S. saw him as pure evil.

But the "tragic artist" had some appeal: His mother was killed during the holocaust, and his wife who was nearly to term with his child was brutally murdered by the Manson Family. (Though, does any of this make raping a 13 year old okay? Nope.)

And so, actors in Europe and the U.S. alike continued working with him, actors such as Sigourney Weaver, Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet and many, many more. They all worked with him after he was convicted of raping a child, and to talk ask them about it was treated more like gossip than anything else.

When the #MeToo era sprung into full-force, Hollywood was quick to blacklist Harvey Weinstein, saying they would have never worked with him had they known. Meryl Streep said she doesn't approve of rape and wouldn't have worked with him if she knew... But in 2003 when convicted child rapist Roman Polanski was awarded best director at the Oscars, she was standing and clapping. Many actors and actresses said they would have never worked with Weinstein if they knew, but knowingly worked with a pedophile for years.

Hollywood supported him when he was arrested in Zurich. Whoopi Goldberg said he hadn't committed "rape-rape" (which, if forcing yourself inside a child in every way imaginable isn't rape-rape, then what is?) and that he was not a predator. 100+ actors and filmmakers signed a petition when he was arrested.

Harvey Weinstein wrote an open letter to show his support and referred to the incident as a "so-called crime" and said he had served his time. As if child rape is a "so-called crime" and 42 days for it is enough time to serve. (And side note, there's almost no one worse to come to your defense for a sex crime than Harvey Weinstein, but I digress.)

Ultimately, Samantha Gailey, now Geimer, has done her best to heal and wishes no ill-will on Polanski, and Polanski has spent half of his life on the lam from the U.S. This case is a necessary reminder that people must be held accountable for their crimes, and that giving certain people a pass for their horrific acts is not okay.

Being a great, world-renowned director does not make Roman Polanski any less of a child rapist.


1. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/jan/30/hollywood-reverence-child-rapist-roman-polanski-convicted-40-years-on-run

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Polanski_sexual_abuse_case

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