Roman Polanski’s Alleged Sexual Assaults: What You Need to Know
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Roman Polanski is known for many things: He’s the director of the classic films like Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown. He’s the widower of actress Sharon Tate, who was brutally murdered by the Manson Family while she was pregnant with the couple’s child. He won an Academy Award for Best Director in 2003 for his film The Pianist. And he has repeatedly been accused of sexual misconduct with underage girls, including a new accusation this week.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Renate Langer, 61, of Germany, spoke with police in Switzerland last month alleging that Polanski raped her several times when she was 15 years old. A former model and actress, Langer told the newspaper she confided to a boyfriend about the alleged rapes years later, but didn’t report them at the time because of how she thought parents might react.
“My mother would have had a heart attack,” she told the Times. “I felt ashamed and embarrassed and lost and solo.” Both of her parents have died within the past two years, which is why she now feels free to come forward.
As the Times reports, Langer said she met the director while she was working as a model and he invited her to his home in Gstaad in 1972 because he was considering her for a film role. Langer alleges Polanski first raped her in a bedroom at his home and a second time in Rome, where she traveled after being cast in a small part in one of his films. (According to IMDB, she played “Naked Girl With Hat” in the film What?)
Langer’s allegation is the fourth such accusation against the legendary director. It’s an ordeal that spans several decades and involves the American criminal justice system as well as that of several European countries. Here, what you need to know about the allegations against Polanski – and what could come next.
Where did this all begin?
The most well-known of the alleged sexual assaults occurred in 1977, after the 43-year-old director met 13-year-old Samantha Gailey. He was interested in photographing her for a project – he said he was shooting a series for the French fashion magazine Vogue Hommes at the time, with the expressed aim of sexualizing teenage girls – and in February, he took some pictures of her nearby her home in Los Angeles. That March, he asked her to sit for him at the Mulholland Drive home of Jack Nicholson. Though Nicholson was traveling, Nicholson’s girlfriend, Angelica Huston, was at the residence at the time. But when Gailey got there, Huston wasn’t home.
The photo shoot went as planned, and ended with the two of them in a hot tub. After giving her champagne and a Qualuude – a prescription sedative that was popular at the time – Polanski engaged in oral, vaginal and anal intercourse with Gailey in a bedroom. According to Gailey’s 1977 grand jury testimony, she repeatedly asked to go home but Polanski persisted.
At one point, Huston came home and interrupted them, although Gailey did not recognize the actress at the time. Huston later described the girl as “sullen” in a probation report about Polanski. After the assault, Polanski drove Gailey home. She later said he’d asked her to keep the encounter secret.
As she recounted in a 2003 interview on Larry King Live, Gailey’s parents learned of the assault after her sister overheard her telling her boyfriend about it. Polanski was arrested the following day and claimed the sex had been consensual. Geimer said it had not been.
Polanski was indicted on six criminal counts, including sodomy, sex with a minor and rape by use of drugs. In an attempt to keep the matter from going to trial, he pleaded guilty to the least serious offense: unlawful sexual intercourse. He was sent to jail for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation, but was released after 42 days. This angered the judge, who ordered him to go back to jail for the remaining 48 days, then voluntarily deport himself back to Europe. Instead, he hopped on the next flight to London. He hasn’t come back to the United States since.
“I was actually relieved when he left,” Gailey – who now goes by her married name, Geimer – told Larry King. “Because that kind of ended it for me.”
In 1988, Gailey filed a civil suit against Polanski, which the director settled in 1993 by agreeing to a payment of $500,000, ABC News reported. Now a mother of three grown sons, Gailey has repeatedly asked the courts to stop pursuing Polanski so that her childhood rape by him no longer features so prominently in her life. Since 1997, she has asked for criminal charges to be dropped and has publicly forgiven him. She told Larry King that “His punishment was secondary to just getting this whole thing to stop.” In 2007, Gailey filed a formal request with the LAPD to drop charges against Polanski, according to the Guardian.
In the 2011 documentary Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir, the director publicly apologized to Gailey. In it, he says “She is a double victim: my victim and a victim of the press.”
Who are the other victims?
But even though Gailey has moved on, it seems that might not be the only victim. In 2010, British actress Charlotte Lewis held a press conference and said Polanski “forced himself” on her in his apartment in Paris, France in 1983.
As she told the Mail on Sunday in an exclusive 2010 interview, she was working as a model met with the director at his apartment regarding the possibility of being cast in a film. (In 1986, People magazine had lauded Lewis as Polanski’s “new protegee” after he cast her in his film Pirates.)
Lewis was “scared and ashamed” to go the authorities after the assault, she told the Mail on Sunday, and said she came forward now because the director’s “legal team is portraying his previous offense against a minor as an isolated incident.”
Lewis declined to go into detail as to how Polanski assaulted her but told CNN, “He sexually abused me in the worst possible way when I was just 16 years old.” She elaborated to CNN that the director “took advantage of me and I have lived with the effects of his behavior ever since it occurred.” In 2010, Lewis and her lawyer Gloria Allred met with law enforcement in Los Angeles to discuss the allegations, CNN reported. However, as Deadline Hollywood notes, Lewis “did not file legal charges.”
Polanski declined to comment to the Mail on Sunday regarding Lewis accusations.
Then just last august, another woman came forward to accuse the director of sexually assaulting her as a minor. In a press conference in Los Angeles, a woman identified only as Robin M. claimed Polanski “sexually victimized” her when she was 16-years-old in 1973 in southern California. Her lawyer Gloria Allred declined to explain how Robin M. originally met Polanski.
Reading from a prepared statement, Robin M. said she told a friend about what happened “the day after the assault.” She didn’t tell her parents, though. “The reason, with this exception, that I kept it to myself is that I didn’t want my father to do something that might cause him to go to prison for the rest of his life,” she said.
Robin M. explained that she decided to come forward when she learned that Geimer planned to ask a Los Angeles Supreme Court Judge Scott M. Gordon to resolve the criminal pursuit once and for all against Polanski. “This infuriated me,” Robin M. said in a statement reported by Deadline Hollywood. “I am speaking out now so that Samantha and the will know that she was not the only minor that Roman Polanski victimized.”
Following Robin M.’s press conference, a lawyer for Polanski issued a statement to Deadline Hollywood:
“I think this is an attempt to influence Judge Gordon by a press conference. Ms. Geimer came to court, presented herself and begged the four-decades-old case to be over. If this lady wants to block Ms. Geimer’s request, Ms. Allred could file an amicus brief with Judge Gordon.”
Later in the month, Judge Gordon rejected the request to drop Geimer’s case.
Will he ever face charges in the U.S.?
Polanski is a dual citizen of Poland and France. He has primarily lived in France for decades, where he is married to French actress Emmanuelle Seigner and has two children. The director has refused to travel to countries where he might be extradited to the U.S.
In September 2009, Polanski was arrested in Switzerland on his outstanding U.S. arrest warrant from 1978. Police nabbed the director in the airport on his way to the Zurich Film Festival, where he was to receive a lifetime achievement award, CNN reported. After agreeing to electronic monitoring, in November 2009 Polanski was released on a $4.5 million bail, which he raised by using his Paris apartment as security, according to the Telegraph.
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office explained that the U.S. pursues an arrest of Polanski any time he travels to a country with an extradition treaty with the U.S. France refuses to extradite its own citizens, which is how Polanski has evaded extradition, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
After nine months of living under house arrest at his home in Gstaad, in July 2010 Switzerland eventually denied a request to extradite Polanski , the Guardian reported. The electronic monitoring was also removed from his ankle.
Geimer told Larry King in October 2010 she was “very relieved” Polanski was not extradited, according to CNN. “I’ve been so much more damaged by the court system and by the media than by him,” she said at the time.
According to the New York Times, in 2015, a court in Poland ruled it would be an “obviously unlawful” deprivation of liberty to extradite Polanski, stating that the justice system in California would not provide a fair trial for Polanski. The Polish minister of justice appealed but in 2016, the Supreme Court in Poland affirmed the lower court’s ruling not extradite the director.At this point, it’s pretty unlikely that he’ll ever face charges in the U.S. Not only have France, Switzerland and Poland are all refused to extradite him, he’s also 84 years old.