Polanski fled United States in 1978, avoiding sentencing
LA judge decision expected within 90 days on Polanski case
Almost 40 years after Roman Polanski fled the US after pleading guilty to having sex with a minor, the filmmaker’s legal saga may get a decision soon.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon is expected to rule on Polanski’s case within 90 days.
“He’s 83 and wants this case over with,” said Harlan Braun, Polanski’s lawyer, at a court hearing Monday. “Mr. Polanski has made it clear publicly he regrets the crime.”
Braun maintains that the director should face no more jail time if he returns to the US.
Roots of the 40-year-old case
The case dates back to 1977 when Polanski was accused of giving a 13-year-old victim champagne and part of a Quaalude tablet before having sex with her during a photo shoot at actor Jack Nicholson’s house.
He was charged with a number of felonies, but prosecutors dropped those charges in a plea bargain that saw him plead guilty to unlawful sex with a minor.
The original judge Laurence J. Rittenband, who presided over the case and is now dead, first sent the Polanski to maximum-security prison for 42 days. On the eve of his sentencing, Polanski fled the country after learning that the judge might not go along with the short jail term he expected to get in exchange for his plea.
Since then, Polanski has successfully fought US extradition efforts in Poland and Switzerland. Meanwhile, he continued his career as a Hollywood exile in countries where he would not face potential extradition.
In 2003, he was a no-show at the Academy Awards ceremony where he won an Oscar for his film “The Pianist.”
DA: Polanski is seeking ‘special treatment’
His lawyer seeks the LA court to consider the 42 days Polanski spent in a California jail and about 300 days spent in custody while going through extradition proceedings in Switzerland, as time served – meaning he would not face anymore jail time in the US.
Braun argued Polanski would’ve faced a maximum of 12 months for his crime based on standards in 1970s, so his client had already served most of that time. He sought an indication about his client’s potential sentencing from the court, in order for Polanski to return to the country.
Braun also sought the court to lift Polanski’s arrest warrant, which was issued in 1978.
Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee balked at Braun’s requests, for an indication of what kind of sentencing Polanski might get before he returns to the US.
“This case is 40 years old because the defendant fled,” she said. “Not only did he flee, he has fought all of the People’s efforts to get him back to this jurisdiction.”
She said it wasn’t “in the best interest of justice to give a wealthy celebrity – that’s what Mr. Polanski is – different treatment than any other fugitive from justice. That’s what Mr. Braun is asking for. He’s asking for special treatment.”
Braun replied by saying that Polanski’s case would’ve been easier if he wasn’t a celebrity.
The victim, who years ago identified herself as Samantha Geimer, has said she was taken advantage of and made to have sex. But she has urged that the matter be dropped.
CNN’s Rosalina Nieves contributed to this report.