Almost 40 years after film director Roman Polanski fled the United States to avoid further sentencing after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, a Los Angeles judge is set to rule on what might be the last iteration of Polanski’s case within 90 days, CNN reports.
A warrant for Polanski’s arrest has been open since he left the country in 1978. The French-Polish Holocaust survivor, whose films made prior to his flight from the U.S. included “Rosemary’s Baby,” and “Chinatown,” has continued to direct movies in his exile. In 2002, he won the Academy Award for Best Director for his film “The Pianist.”
His case, which was never concluded, is being revisited because the director, 83, wishes to return to the U.S., and is pursuing a verdict that would guarantee he would not serve further jail time. His lawyer, Harland Braun, is arguing that Polanski served the time in prison legally required of him in 1977.
In 1977, Polanski was accused of giving a 13-year-old girl champagne and part of a Quaalude tablet — a powerful drug — and then having sexual relations with her.
After agreeing to a plea bargain in which five of the six felony counts with which Polanski was originally charged were dropped in exchange for his guilty plea on the charge of unlawful sex with a minor, Polanski served 42 days in a maximum-security prison. He left the country after becoming convinced that a new judge was intending to overturn his plea deal and assign him a more substantial sentence.
He has spent the past four decades in European countries that do not have extradition agreements with the U.S., although he was arrested on a U.S. warrant in both Poland and Switzerland in the last ten years. Both countries declined to extradite him.
Polanski’s push to have the case against him concluded is rooted in the Polish supreme court’s decision, in December 2016, to not extradite him to the U.S., a ruling made on the grounds that Polanski had served his sentence as articulated by his original plea bargain. The Guardian quoted Polanski’s lawyer, Harland Braun, as telling AFP that the Polish court’s decision had involved a litigation initiated by “the DA” — presumably the Los Angeles County district attorney — and therefore, having been decided in Polanski’s favor, legally supported his argument that, were he to return to the United States, he should not face further jail time.
Following that decision, Braun wrote to Los Angeles county superior court judge Scott Gordon, who will decide Polanski’s case, petitioning that Gordon unseal a secret testimony of a prosecutor in Polanski’s original trial, taken in the U.S. in 2010. Braun, The Guardian explained, was convinced Roger Gunson’s testimony upheld Polanski’s claim that he had an agreement under which he would serve 48 days of jail time. Combined with the Polish court’s decision in favor of Polanski, the document, if it indeed supports Polanski, might be grounds to conclude Polanski’s case and lift the 1978 warrant for his arrest without requiring him to serve more prison time.
Gordon announced his intention to decide the case within three months following a court hearing in Los Angeles on Monday.
Prosecutors in the case have accused Polanski of seeking special treatment, submitting a court filing in advance of Monday’s hearing, claiming that by failing to appear for the hearing, Polanski was attempting to dictate the terms of his return without accepting the risks of his appeal.
Polanski, Los Angeles district attorney Jackie Lacey wrote in the filing, “wants answers –- but will only show up if he likes the answers.”
“There will be no discussion regarding what will happen until Mr Polanski returns.”