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Video: Ex-sister-in-law: Polanski is ‘a good guy’

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    >>> and now to the arrest of oscar-winning director roman polanski . it could be weeks before a swiss court weighs in on whether to grant his request to be released from custody. this as some hollywood heavyweights are rallying behind him. we'll talk exclusively with the sister of roman polanski 's late wife, sharyn tate , in just a little while, but first, nbc's stephanie gosk is in zurich with the latest. stephanie , good morning to you.

    >> reporter: good morning, matt. well, the latest film from polanski was set to be released in just a matter of months. it was a thriller with pierce brosnan and ewen mcgregor, but with the director sitting in a jail cell here in switzerland, both the movie and his life are on hold. as roman polanski faces possible extradition to the u.s. and years in prison, hollywood 's biggest stars are circling the wagons in his defense. whoopi goldberg had this to say on "the view" yesterday.

    >> when an adult has sex with a child, it's called statutory rape . it's not called anything else.

    >> he was not charged.

    >> but rape.

    >> he was not charged --

    >> it wasn't rape rape.

    >> i know it wasn't rape rape. it was something else, but i don't believe it area rape rape.

    >> reporter: in a statement to the los angeles "daily news," harvey weinstein wrote -- "we are calling every filmmaker we can to help fix this terrible situation." a petition is being signed by woody allen , martin scorsese and david lynch , but there are also those in hollywood who believe he needs to answer to his crimes.

    >> there's sort of a natural tendency to excuse bad conduct on the part of artistic people.

    >> reporter: polanski is a hollywood darling, acclaimed as an oscar award -winning director and honored for escaping the horrors of world war ii as a child. but polanski is also a fugitive. more than 30 years ago in los angeles , the director brought a 13-year-old aspiring model to jack nicholson 's home, where police say he gave her drugs and had sex with her. as part of a deal, polanski pled guilty to statutory rape but fled the u.s. before sentencing. this weekend in zurich , the 76-year-old was finally detained and now sits in a swiss jail, believed to be this one.

    >> i told them that he is doing quite well, but of course, the circumstances are very, very hard for him.

    >> reporter: the defense team is fighting to get polanski released under house arrest in his swiss chalet until the courts decide on the legality of the extradition. the director's home is in france , where his worried wife was caught briefly on camera yesterday. polanski 's previous wife and unborn child were brutally murdered in 1969 by charles manson 's supporters. death and tragedy have been as regular in polanski 's life as they are in his movies. but hollywood 's most powerful elite are now hoping they can rewrite the script. soon after polanski 's arrest, a number of french officials, including the president and the foreign minister, came out in support for him, but there are signs in the last 24 hours that political opinion in his native france is mixed. a number of conservative politicians have said, matt, that this crime is so serious, it doesn't matter who polanski is. he has to answer for what he's done.

    >> all right, stephanie gosk in zurich for us this morning. stephanie , thank you very much. debra tate is the sister of sharon tate , roman polanski 's late wife, who was, as we just heard, murdered by the followers of charles manson back in 1969 . she joins us exclusively. debra , good morning to you.

    >> good morning, matt.

    >> as you just heard stephanie say and you've heard over the last several days, roman polanski is a polarizing figure. people feel one way or the other. there is often not a gray area here. so, since you know him and you've kept in regular contact with him over the years, what can you tell us about him personally that might shed light on this situation?

    >> roman is a brilliant director. there is no disputing that. he's also a philanthropist. he helps many other people get a foothold in the business. he's quite a humanitarian. he's a good guy. he's brilliant as well.

    >> and yet, there is this other side, and that is the polarizing part of this story, that he committed a crime some 30 years ago and then fled this country to avoid punishment for that crime. and so, you know, how do you respond to people who say it doesn't matter that he's brilliant and a great director? he deserves to serve time for that crime?

    >> there was a deal made back in the '70s where roman would undergo evaluation and spend four months in jail. he did that. he was evaluated not to be a pedophile, and there is, as i said, rape and then there is rape. it was determined that roman did not forcibly have sex with this young woman . it was a consensual matter.

    >> right, and --

    >> i am a victims advocate, and i know the difference.

    >> and i understand that, and yes, there is a difference, but a lot of men in this country have served time in jail or in prison for committing the kind of rape that roman polanski committed, the statutory rape . and so, how do you respond to that?

    >> i do believe that our system is extremely broken on multi levels. i think at the moment, there is a lot of taxpayer dollars being spent to pursue cases that do not need to be pursued, especially in the state of california . we have a broken system. it's a very multimillion dollar broken system.

    >> you, as i understand, tried to convince roman to come back to the united states i think a few years ago, 2005 . what was the purpose? what did you think would happen if he returned?

    >> i was under the impression that there was misconduct in the political genre itself and i thought based on that he could get a fair trial here. since then, speaking with the district attorney's office about this matter, i agree that roman could not necessarily be dealt with in a fair manner here in the united states . i think that this matter better be served in france .

    >> switching gears slightly, debra , susan atkins --

    >> yes.

    >> -- who's the charles manson follower who murdered your sister and roman polanski 's wife, sharon tate , died recently, just a couple days before roman polanski was arrested. and i'm just curious, after all these years, did you ever imagine that these two people who played such different roles in your life would capture the headlines so close together?

    >> absolutely not. it's been a devastating few weeks for me. i also did susan atkins ' last parole hearing about two weeks prior to her death. so, it's just been a whirlwind for me this last few weeks.

    >> well, debra tate , i thank you for joining us this morning. it's nice talking to you.

    >> very nice talking to you, matt.

    >>> just head, an american father jailed in japan as he tried to bring his children home. he says they had been taken there illegally by his ex-wife. we'll talk with

updated 9/30/2009 10:06:02 AM ET 2009-09-30T14:06:02

Debra Tate, the sister of Roman Polanski's second wife, actress Sharon Tate, says Polanski is brilliant and a "good guy" and she doesn't think her former brother-in-law will be treated fairly in the United States.

Tate tells NBC's TODAY show on Wednesday that the U.S. justice system is broken.

Polanski was arrested Saturday in Zurich. The U.S. has been seeking his extradition for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Tate says Polanski did not forcibly have sex with the girl, calling it a "consensual matter."

Sharon Tate was murdered in Los Angeles in 1969 by followers of Charles Manson. She was eight months pregnant.

Debra Tate says it's been a devastating few weeks for her, with her sister's killer, Susan Atkins, dying Sept. 24 and now her late sister's husband jailed.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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