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Roman Polanski Should Face U.S. Justice For 1977 Rape, Los Angeles DA Says

Deadline logo Deadline 3/2/2017 Dominic Patten
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The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office today slapped down Roman Polanski’s latest attempt to be allowed to return to the U.S. and escape jail time for the 1977 rape of a 13-year-old girl.

“The defendant has many options before him if he returns to this jurisdiction,” said Deputy D.A. Michele Hanisee in an opposition filing Wednesday (read it here) to a February 16 motion by lawyers for Polanski. “He can return to this court and argue for a favorable sentence. He can return to court and make a motion to withdraw his plea and face the possibility of a trial on all of the original charges. He can file an appeal of any order of the court to the Courts of Appeal.  He can negotiate with the People.

“What he cannot do,” she added, “is dictate outcomes from afar while insulating himself from any potential adverse consequence. The affront to justice is suffered most by the People who are unable to litigate any issue to a final conclusion while the defendant remains a fugitive and can simply decline to return should the court rule in a manner the defendant finds unfavorable.

“The People will entertain any motion from the defendant the moment he returns to this jurisdiction,” concludes the 15-page filing from the LA County District Attorney’s Office, laying down a marker for Polanski and his side.

On the filmmaker’s side of the matter, his lawyer told Deadline he’s confused by this new paperwork from the DA’s office. “Why is Jackie Lacey afraid to have the public know what her own prosecutor testified under oath?” said attorney Harland Braun, calling out the LA County District Attorney by name.

Always a long shot and rescheduled last week from February 24, the matter will be argued by representatives from both sides in front of LASC Judge Scott Gordon on March 20.

As part of a multi-tiered process, that motion from Polanski’s side seeks to unseal the 2010 testimony of former deputy prosecutor Roger Gunson as the first stage of the Oscar-winning director eventually returning to the States. That testimony is said to detail a judicial promise from the late 1970s that would have seen the controversial The Pianist director spend 90 days in a psychiatric evaluation.

The Polish Supreme Court ruled in December that 83-year-old Polanski, 83, cannot be extradited to the U.S. Citing that decision and others, Polanski attorney Braun insists that if made public, Gunson’s testimony will make it clear that there was a deal back in 1978 that would have seen the director spend only a short time behind bars for his admitted assault of the minor.

It was only when the original judge reneged on that arrangement and swore to put Polanski behind bars for up to 50 years that the director fled to Europe, where he has lived, worked and successfully fought extradition on several occasions.

“I believe there is no current excuse or justification for keeping DDA Roger Gunson’s sworn testimony under seal,” Braun said in a letter to Gordon last week. “Therefore, on behalf of Roman Polanski, I request that it be unsealed and that I be allowed to make a copy to assist me in the preparation of possible motions.”

Polanski holds dual citizenship in Poland and France, where he currently lives. The latter nation prohibits extradition of its citizens, while Polish law does not.

Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.

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