NEWS INTERVIEW – MSNBC LIVE
Aired September 28, 2009 1:12 PM
Polanski Fights Extradition
TAMRON HALL: We’re back with developments today following the arrest of Oscar winning director Roman Polanski in Switzerland this weekend. His attorney says Polanski will fight extradition to California. He’s wanted there to face justice for having sex with a 13-year old girl back in 1977. Meantime, France and Poland where Polanski has dual citizenship, urged Switzerland to free him on bail. They also urge Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to grant clemency. Polanski was arrested Saturday as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award at a film festival – and joining us now is defense attorney and former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey. Kendall, thanks for joining us. We certainly appreciate it. People are asking about the timing here. Roman Polanski, according to reports – he’s got a home there in Switzerland. He has had a number of ski vacations, it wasn’t as if he thought he should hide in Switzerland so, what can we learn from the timing here?
KENDALL COFFEY: Well first of all whatever he was doing in Switzerland he had to know that there was an extradition treaty and he was inevitably stepping into harm’s way the minute he left the safe haven of France. But I think what really probably stirred up the interest was recent documentary in 2008 about Roman Polanski raising questions about the whole issue. So a fugitive situation that was sort of asleep all of a sudden flared up and got the interest of the DA in Los Angeles. The rest as we know came down with his arrest in Zurich.
TAMRON HALL: Now we know he’s said he’s going to fight extradition, Kendall, some have said that’s not a good idea. It could take a very long time that it would be in his best interest if he would come in and face the music.
KENDALL COFFEY: Well, I think very well so because fighting extradition in his situation is almost hopeless. There’s no real issue. The U.S. has a very firm effective treaty with Switzerland. In fact it was sponsored by President Bill Clinton. It is of course, his wife, as Secretary of State who’s going to be asked to take steps to enforce the treaty and, why put himself in a situation where he’s incarcerated for weeks, for months – who knows maybe even years – if they want to keep fighting it out in Switzerland when inevitably he’s going to end up facing the music back in Los Angeles.
TAMRON HALL: Kendall, I’ve been struck by how many times today I’ve heard and since this all broke that people keep saying “well, this was 1977” – and there was a judge who may have not have been the most honorable of judges, is that relevant at all?
KENDALL COFFEY: Well, I don’t think it’s going to matter much. From the standpoint of law enforcement, a fugitive that’s living a life, having a good life overseas, not facing the charges in the U.S., is an eyesore. And they will not negotiate – almost always will not negotiate with fugitives. The position of law enforcement is come home then we’ll talk. Fugitives often say “don’t want to take that chance – I’d rather walk.” Here, of course, he walked right into the arms of Swiss authorities and sooner or later he’s going to be back in the Los Angeles courtroom to finally get the sentence that he has been frankly running from all these years.
TAMRON HALL: So Kendall, you think that the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will reject Polanski and his lawyers’ appeals and go and allow for him to be extradited?
KENDALL COFFEY: I think she will. I’m sure she’s going to be very respectful to foreign governments but at the end of the day it was a crime under U.S. law. By today’s standards it’s considered a serious crime and I do not see Hillary Clinton failing to back up law enforcement in her own country in order to accommodate foreign officials about a very controversial director that, in the eyes of U.S. law, has been for all these years, a fugitive from justice.
TAMRON HALL: And Kendall one more question. If and when Roman Polanski is brought back here, I imagine he will be placed behind bars because he is a flight risk, hence the reason that he’s been on the run. What is the process following that? I’m sure his attorneys will try for an appeal but he has a conviction here.
KENDALL COFFEY: Well, he’s already pled guilty. When he comes back to the U.S. it’s for the sentencing. There may be some post conviction issues that they are trying to raise. We’ve been reading about that over the years. But I think the likelihood is going to be that he will be sentenced probably not a very long jail term under all the circumstances but it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets some jail time and at least he can put this behind him. At least the cloud that’s followed his life for thirty years will finally dissipate.
TAMRON HALL: Real quick Kendall. Also one more question for you. A lot of people are bringing up the fact that the victim who was thirteen at the time – now a grown woman – does not want to proceed forward here. That she, I think the description was, wants this all to go away. Is that relevant at all at this point?
KENDALL COFFEY: It’s highly relevant. There’s great concern about what victims feel and if that victim comes into court and says no jail time for Roman Polanski, that is the best thing he can hope for.
TAMRON HALL: Interesting. Alright Kendall Coffey. Thank you so much. Greatly appreciate you joining us. Former U.S. Attorney.