L.A. judge to hear motions in Roman Polanski legal saga
Another chapter in the twisted legal saga of director Roman Polanski is expected to unfold in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Monday morning.
The legal team for Polanski — who has been a fugitive from U.S. justice for nearly four decades — has asked a judge to rule that their client has served more than enough time in custody for having had sex with a minor in the spring of 1977.
The 83-year-old “Rosemary’s Baby” director, who fled the country in 1978 before his sentencing, will not attend Monday’s hearing before Superior Court Judge Scott M. Gordon, according to Polanski’s attorney, Harland Braun.
The case dates back to 1977, when Polanski, then 43, picked up Samantha Gailey — a 13 year-old junior high student — and brought her to Jack Nicholson’s house for a photo shoot. He gave her champagne and part of a Quaalude pill and, according to testimony from Gailey, he forced her to have sex with him.
After reaching a deal with prosecutors, Polanski, who pleaded guilty to unlawful intercourse with a minor, was sent to a state prison for a 90-day diagnostic evaluation. Judge Laurence Rittenband, who presided over the case at the time, said the evaluation would help him reach a fair sentencing decision. The director was released after 42 days and prison officials said they didn’t believe he needed additional prison time. Rittenband, facing fierce media pressure, went against the recommendation, saying he planned to send Polanski back to prison for an additional 48 days.
Polanski then hopped a flight out of Los Angeles and fled to Europe.
In recently filed court documents, Braun wrote that Polanski is eager to return to Los Angeles, but said that he has reservations given his past experience with the justice system in L.A. County. It’s not unreasonable, Braun said, for his client to ask the judge what sentence he’d give the octogenarian director.
“Mr. Polanski now only asks this court to understand why he is asking for a simple declaration of judicial honesty before once again attempting to trust our system,” Braun wrote.
The Los Angeles county district attorney’s office objected to the request, saying it fell into a pattern of Polanski asking for special treatment.
In the late 1990s, Polanski nearly struck a deal with the D.A.’s office. According to prosecutors, Larry P. Fidler, the judge overseeing the case at that time, said that if Polanski returned to L.A. he wouldn’t have to serve more time.
But when Fidler made it clear that Polanski’s sentencing would be held in open court, prosecutors said Polanski became fearful of the media attention and backed out. Polanski’s attorney acknowledged that the decision not to return then may have been a mistake, but said that his client wanted to protect his young children.
Prosecutors derided Polanski’s recent request that the judge indicate a potential sentence should he return as “an advanced preview.”
“The defendant is, once again, trying to dictate the terms of his return without risk to himself,” prosecutors wrote. “Defendant wants answers — but will only show up if he likes the answers. He forfeited his right to make requests of the court when he fled.”
In an interview Friday, Braun scoffed at the district attorney’s claims, saying it’s common for judges to offer indicated sentences.
“It’s all politics, I’m afraid,” Braun said, adding that his client never would have fled in the first place if he hadn’t been misled by the L.A. County court system.
The hearing Monday is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
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