Roman Polanski is variously described as a master film director, creative genius, and passionate artist. After his recent arrest at the Zurich airport, there has been an outcry from some of his fellow-artists who allege to be "dismayed" by the event — with nearly 100 of them signing a petition to protest it.

One of the signers, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, went beyond affixing his name to the shared challenge and wrote a newspaper piece insisting that "whatever you think of the so-called crime, Polanski has served his time."

Here are the facts of public record: Polanski was indicted in 1977 for rape, furnishing a controlled substance (Quaaludes and Champagne), committing a lewd or lascivious act upon a child, and sodomy. The predator was 42 at the time of his crime, and the victim was a 13-year-old girl he was paying (with her absent mother's permission!) to pose for him to photograph nude in a hot tub. After a plea bargain to plead guilty to statutory rape and to have various other charges dropped, Polanski fled the country in 1978 and has been a fugitive ever since.

Where is the "so-called" part of this crime? Is being a Hollywood figure a true pass from basic moral accountability? Does being an "artist" or "genius" free one from an obligation to the law? What is there about the passing of time that exempts one from being caught, arrested, and prosecuted for breaking the law?

Anyone who is not offended by the sort of sophistry that wants Polanski set free or turned into a martyr because of his arrest has either lost or has never possessed a moral compass. It is not self-righteousness to say that adult sexual predators must not be allowed to get by with their crimes — even if they agree to pay half a million dollars to their victims and thereby get their victims to join the plea for their freedom. A wealthy man running from the law and still being hired to work his cinematic craft for millions has hardly "served his time."

For one thing, the very term "artist" is sullied in a culture that calls it art to soak a cross in urine or to scream obscenities into a microphone. For another, the outcry over this arrest reveals just how radically out of touch many in the entertainment world are with the reality ordinary people live.

Artists are just like the rest of us ...
Then there is the simple hypocrisy of it all. Alison Arngrim, an actress best known for being in TV's "Little House on the Prairie" and who has spoken publicly about her own experience of being sexually molested as a child, makes a good point about this case. "If Roman Polanski were a Catholic priest or a Republican senator," she asks, "would these people feel the same way?"

The issue here isn't even legal-but-immoral fornication, adultery, or homosexual acts. It is the acknowledged criminal act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a child and illegal flight to avoid prosecution. Current age, artistic ability, and box-office success are not substitutes for justice under the law.

Artists are just like the rest of us — acclaimed or unnoticed, deep in debt or flush with money, wise or foolish. And, yes, law-abiding or criminal. When the latter, they — just like the unwashed rabble — must be held accountable.