Hundreds of French female lawyers defend controversial Roman Polanski

More than 100 French female lawyers insist that Roman Polanski is innocent until proven guilty in an open letter that warns against treating sexual assault accusations as ‘sacred’ truth

  • 114 French female lawyers defended Roman Polanski in the newspaper Le Monde
  • They wrote that the director had only been prosecuted for sexual assault once 
  • They added that an accusation did not mean he was indeed guilty of the crime
  • They stressed that the controversial director was innocent until proven guilty  

French female lawyers have come forward to defend director Roman Polanski amid the controversy around his recent movie awards win. 

114 female law practitioners signed a letter published in Le Monde, stating that the director has not been prosecuted over any allegations of sexual assaults since 1977, and that the accusations made by several women against him do not mean he’s guilty.  

It comes after weeks of public debate over whether the 86-year-old director’s latest film An Officer and a Spy should have been nominated at the Césars, France’s answer to the Oscars, where he won for Best Director. 

Polanski pleaded guilty to the statutory rape of Samantha Gailey (now Geimer) in Los Angeles when she was only 13 in 1977, and fled the United States to avoid possible jail time in 1978.

He’s continued to direct movies in France, and over the years, a number of actresses have come forward with allegations of sexual assault against him, none of which were pursued in court. 

114 female law practitioners signed a column in French newspaper Le Monde, where they stated the Roman Polanski (pictured in 2017) had not been prosecuted for allegations of sexual assaults since 1977, and that the accusations made by several women against him did not mean he was guilty

In the Le Monde letter, the signatories said they are feminists and ‘lawyers viscerally attached to the principles of the law, starting by the presumption of innocence and period of limitation’. 

As ‘criminal law lawyers who witness victims’ pain everyday, they added that they see ‘to the same degree, the violence of an accusation.’ 

They went on the say that an accusation alone never proves anything, and that if it did, anyone could go around passing their word as intangible proof leading to condemnation. 

‘It’s not so much about believing or not believing a victim than it is about refusing to allow one accusation to stand as sole proof of a crime,’ they added, explaining that believing any woman claiming to be the victim of a sexual assault would ‘make sacred’ her word based on feelings or subjectivity, rather than fact. 

‘Roman Polanski was the subject of several public accusations, among which only one led to a complaint being filed and was not prosecuted. He’s therefore not guilty of what he’s been accused of,’ they wrote. 

The The collective of lawyers wrote they thought it was wrong to say that French justice showed systemic violence towards women, or that they didn’t take their word in consideration enough. Pictured: Polanski at the Cineroman Festival in October 2019 in Nice 

Regarding the case of Samantha Geimer, where Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse, the lawyers stressed that Geimer, now 56, had publicly asked that people stop using her case against the director, and quoted her as saying:

‘When you refuse that a victim forgives and move on to satisfy your selfish need for hatred and punishment, you are only hurting her further.’ 

They went on to write that a worrying presumption of guilt is becoming increasingly present in cases of sexual misconduct. 

The collective of lawyers added that they believe it’s wrong to say that French justice shows systemic violence towards women, and that their world is not sufficiently taken into consideration. 

Allegations against Roman Polanski

1977: Samantha Geimer

Polanski is arrested for the rape of Samantha Gailey (now Geimer) then 13 year-old, and charged with rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14 and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor. 

He initially pleads not guilty but later accepts a plea bargain where he pleads guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse and complies with a 90-day long psychiatric examination. 

In February 1978, fearing jail time, Polanski flees the United Stated and goes to London, from where he moves to France, where he holds citizenship and cannot be extradited back to the US.  

2010: Charlotte Lewis 

British actress Charlotte Lewis accuses Polanski of having raped her during a casting in Paris in 1983, when she was 16. She claimed that Polanski knew she was a minor but forced himself on her.  

August 2017: Robin

In August 2017, a woman only identified as ‘Robin’ came forward and claimed she had been sexually ‘victimised’ by the director when she was 16, in California in 1973. 

September 2017: Renate Langer 

In September 2017, former German model and actress Renate Langer told Swiss police Polanski raped her in 1972 in Gstaad. 

She claimed Polanski apologised a month later and offered her a role in his upcoming movie, promising to be professional, only to rape her again during filming. 

In 2017, she said she did not come forward earlier because it would have given her mother a ‘heart-attack.’ 

October 2017: Marianna Banard  

A month later, in October 2017, American artist Marianna Banard told The Sun that Polanski assaulted her in 1975, when she was ten.

She claimed her mother took her to a Malibu beach so Polanski could take her photograph before the director attacked her.     

November 2017: Five anonymous women through an intermediary 

An Israeli ‘feminist militant’ Matan Uziel creates, where are compiled testimonies from Polanski alleged victims. A few days later he claims having been contacted by five more women with allegations of sexual assault. 

One of them agreed for her testimony to be shared anonymously. In her testimony, she claims Polanski raped her in 1976 when she was 16. 

November 2017: Mallory Millett 

A few days later, a woman named Mallory Millet comes forward and claims she has contacted ImetPolanski,com with her own testimony. She alleges that Polanski tried to rape her twice in 1970 when she was 29.  

2019: Valentine Monnier   

In November 2019, French actress and photograph Valentine Monnier told Le Parisien newspaper that Polanski had violently sexually assaulted her during a ski holiday in Gstaad in 1975, when she was 18. 

They concluded that as criminal lawyers, they would always fight against subjective accusations that almost always lead to public lynching.  

Several women have come forward and accused Roman Polanski of sexually assaulting them when they were under 18. 

However, most of these cases could not be prosecuted under French law because victims did not come forward with their accusations until after the statute of limitation had expired. 

Under French criminal law, victims must report their sexual assault within ten years of the attack taking place – or, within twenty years from the age of 18, if the assault took place when they were under the age of 15. 

The controversy surrounding these allegations escalated when Polanski’s ‘An Officer and a Spy’ was nominated for several awards at the French Cesar Award, and won three, including best director, on Friday 28 February. 

The actress, who had recently revealed she was sexually assaulted by another director when she was 15, said ‘Long live peadophilia’ on her way out of the movie award show 

The director had decided not to attend the ceremony due to several demonstrations by feminist activists. 

French actress Adele Haenel, who stars in ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ and had recently revealed she was sexually assaulted by another director when she was 15, was seen leaving the venue, saying: ‘long live peadophilia,’ upon Polanski’s win.  

In November, French film actress Valentine Monnier accused Polanski of raping her when she was 18 in a ski chalet. 

She told how she feared being murdered by the film director after he ‘violently raped’ her in Gstaad, Switzerland. 

Responding to the claims, a lawyer for the director said: ‘Roman Polanski firmly denies all accusations of rape.’

Ms Monnier, who is now 63, said: ‘In 1975 I was raped by Roman Polanski. I had no link with him, neither personal, nor professional, and I hardly knew him.

‘It happened extremely violently, after we got back to his chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, from skiing.

‘He hit me, beat me until I surrendered, and then raped me and put me through all kinds of vicissitudes. I had just turned 18’.

She feared ‘I would die’, because the already world famous Polanski would want to keep his crime secret by murdering her. 

Describing the crime of rape as a ‘time bomb’, Ms Monnier said the ‘traumatic memory’ of what father-of-two Polanski did to her would never go away.

She felt guilty about what happened for decades and was too scared to go to the authorities.

Polanski had allegedly apologised to her in floods of tears, while other guests in the chalet encouraged her to remain silent.

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