Michael Cieply‘s 10.10. N.Y. Times piece about Roman Polanski’s situation takes stock of today’s tougher attitudes and standards about congress between older men and younger women, and — for the first time in my readings — seems to forecast a longer sentence than expected for Polanski (i.e., more than 12 to 18 months) if and when he’s extradited to the States and faces a judge.

It suggests that Polanski really should have seen the process through back in ’78 rather than skip. It also tells me that it would be at least somewhat unfair to apply today’s mandates and mores in the matter of Polanski’s sentencing. It would almost be analagous to a man having been busted for illegally selling liquor in 1912, and then skipping for 10 years, being re-arrested and extradited and facing a sentence in 1922 during the height of prohibition. He was guilty by 1912 standards, of course, but would be seen as more guilty by 1922 standards. That doesn’t seem right to me.

“If [Polanski] is extradited from Switzerland, Mr. Polanski could face a more severe punishment than he did in the 1970s,” Cieply reports, “as a vigorous victims’ rights movement, a family-values revival and revelations of child abuse by clergy members have all helped change the moral and legal framework regarding sex with the young.

“Mr. Polanski’s lawyers — including Reid Weingarten, a Washington power player — are likely to argue that Mr. Polanski does not even qualify for extradition from Switzerland, because he was set to be given a jail term of less than one year when he fled to France in 1978.

“But Stephen L. Cooley, the Los Angeles County district attorney, has signaled that he believes much stiffer penalties may be in order. Questioned by reporters just after Mr. Polanski’s arrest, he said the filmmaker had received a ‘very, very, very lenient sentence’ that ‘would never be achievable under today’s laws.'”