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Polanski remains fugitive from U.S. law

Oscar-nominated director fled in 1978 on rape charge

Roman Polanski picked up an Oscar nomination for his direction of
Roman Polanski picked up an Oscar nomination for his direction of "The Pianist," but it's unlikely he will attend the ceremonies in California.

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Original indictment: People v. Polanski  (FindLaw, PDF)external link

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- As the Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday morning, speculation focused on whether film director Roman Polanski would attend this year's ceremony.

Polanski was nominated in the best director category for his movie "The Pianist," the story of one man's survival in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.

There is little chance, however, that Polanski will attend the Oscar ceremonies in Los Angeles next month.

Polanski remains a fugitive from U.S. law. He was charged with rape and five other felonies in 1977 after having intercourse with a girl at the home of Jack Nicholson while the actor was away.

The other charges were dropped when Polanski pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. The director, who became a French citizen before the charges, fled the United States in 1978 before being sentenced and then moved to Paris.

"The case remains a matter between the court and Mr. Polanski," said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles district attorney's office. "Until he surrenders, he remains a fugitive."

Indeterminate California sentencing laws at the time mean Polanski, who is reported to be either 69 or 70, could face anywhere from one to 50 years in prison, according to the Los Angeles district attorney's office.

Rumors of legal deals

Although he once vowed to resolve the case, Polanski has said in recent years he is unwilling to jeopardize his life with his children and wife, French actress Emmanuelle Seigner.

Speculation has persisted over the years that a deal may be reached between Polanski and Los Angeles law enforcement authorities. But the Los Angeles district attorney's office maintains that it is up to Polanski to work out an arrangement with the court. No recent negotiations have been held.

Previously Polanski's attorneys have pushed for a sentence involving no long-term incarceration.

Six years ago there was speculation that the case was possibly moving to resolution. Los Angeles media reported that Polanski and prosecutors were working on a deal to allow Polanski to return to the United States and serve no jail time.

Since the incident, even the girl -- now a grown woman -- has suggested that Polanski be allowed to work in the United States.

Successful career directing films

Polanski has been nominated for Oscars for directing "Rosemary's Baby" (1968), "Chinatown" (1974) and "Tess" (1980), an adaptation of "Tess of the d'Urbervilles," the Thomas Hardy novel about a young peasant woman whose life collapses after a wealthy older man seduces her.

In addition to the Oscar bid, Polanski has a Directors Guild nomination for "The Pianist," based on the true story of a Jewish musician hiding from Nazis in the ruins of Poland. "The Pianist" also was awarded the Cannes film festival's Palm d'Or last year.

The film has six other Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actor for star Adrien Brody.

"The Pianist" mirrors some of the French-born, Polish Jewish director's real life when he escaped from Krakow's Jewish ghetto as a child and lived off the charity of strangers until reuniting with his father years later. His mother died at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

In 1969, Polanski's life was marked by horror when his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, and four guests were savagely murdered in his home by followers of Charles Manson.

Polanski was away from the home at the time.

Manson and some of his followers were convicted of the attacks on Tate and sentenced to death. All became eligible for parole in 1972 after the California State Supreme Court abolished the death penalty.


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