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Judge says Polanski must return for sentencing

By Alan Duke, CNN
Director Roman Polanski is under house arrest in Switzerland pending extradition to the United States.
Director Roman Polanski is under house arrest in Switzerland pending extradition to the United States.
  • Director pleaded guilty to sex with teen in 1977 but left country before sentencing
  • He was arrested in September on U.S. fugitive warrant
  • Judge says he must return to U.S. before court decides whether he will go to prison

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Director Roman Polanski must return to the United States before the court will decide if he must go to prison for a 1977 sex conviction, a Los Angeles judge ruled Friday.

Polanski's lawyer argued that evidence of misconduct by the judge and prosecutor in the case 32 years ago should be considered now, without requiring Polanski to be present.

The famed director of "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Pianist" pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977 but fled to Europe before he was sentenced. He has been the subject of an international extradition battle since he was arrested in Switzerland in September on a U.S. fugitive warrant.

At a hearing Friday afternoon, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza also rejected a request from Polanski's victim -- Samantha Geimer, now in her 40s and a married mother of three -- to have the case dismissed.

Geimer came forward long ago, saying she was disturbed by how the criminal case has been handled.

"There is no requirement that my client surrender," Larry Silver, Geimer's lawyer, said. "Her suffering must come to an end."

Silver argued that "Marsey's law," an initiative passed by California voters in 2008 giving crime victims certain rights, had been violated by the prosecution. Silver said Geimer was not consulted about the decision to extradite Polanski. Espinoza said the law was "never intended in this fashion."

Polanski was 43 at the time of the conviction. Prosecutors dropped rape and other charges in exchange for the guilty plea.

Polanski's attorney Chad Hummel argued that his client had already been sentenced in 1977 when the judge sent him to California's Chino prison for 45 days to be evaluated by psychologists.

But Polanski fled the country before sentencing after learning the judge might not go along with the short jail term Polanski expected to get in exchange for his plea. He has been a fugitive since 1978 and lived in France before his arrest.

"Mr. Polanski did not flee from justice," Hummel said. "He left because a corrupt judge was going to sentence him a second time."

In the past, Espinoza acknowledged problems with the way Polanski's case was handled, mentioning a documentary film that portrays backroom deals between prosecutors and a media-obsessed judge who was worried his public image would suffer if he didn't send Polanski to prison.

"It's hard to contest some of the behavior in the documentary was misconduct," Espinoza said at an earlier hearing.

On Friday, Espinoza said "nothing in the order precludes the possibility that the judge's promise will not some day be enforced."

Deputy District Attorney David Walgren argued the only just solution would be for Polanski to waive extradition and return to the United States.

"It's Mr. Polanski's decision that has delayed the proceedings of this court," Walgren said. "Why will he not simply surrender to this court's jurisdiction?"

David Wells, a retired Los Angeles prosecutor, was featured in the documentary, "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired." Although he had never been assigned to handle the Polanski case, Wells said he goaded the judge.

He later recanted during an interview with CNN, saying he had inflated his importance in the celebrity case because he didn't think the documentary would be shown in the United States. It was broadcast in 2008 on HBO, which, like CNN, is part of Time Warner.

For years, Polanski, 76, and various lawyers have made quiet overtures to resolve the case, but negotiations have always gotten bogged down over prosecutors' insistence that he return to the United States and appear in a Los Angeles courtroom.

Swiss authorities released the director from jail on $4.5 million bail in early December "pending extradition" to the United States.