LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles judge privately told attorneys he was going to break a promise and jail Roman Polanski for sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl in 1977, a former prosecutor testified, setting the stage. plot for which the famous director fled the United States as a fugitive.
A previously sealed transcript of retired assistant district attorney Roger Gunson’s testimony, obtained Sunday night by The Associated Press, supports Polanski’s claim that he fled the day before sentencing in 1978 because he didn’t believe not that he was getting a fair deal.
Speaking behind closed doors in 2010, Gunson said the judge broke his promise to release Polanski after state prison officials ruled he should not serve his sentence.
“The judge promised him twice…something he reneged on,” Gunson said. “So it didn’t surprise me that when they told him he was going to be sent to state prison…that he couldn’t or wouldn’t trust the judge.”
During Polanski’s trial, the 13-year-old victim testified that during a photo shoot at Jack Nicholson’s home in March 1977, when the actor wasn’t home, Polanski gave him champagne and a party. a sedative pill and then forced her to have sex. despite his objections. The girl said she didn’t fight him because she was afraid of him, but then her mother called the police.
When the minor refused to testify in court, Polanski pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with a minor in exchange for prosecutors dropping drug, rape and sodomy charges. The victim has since requested that the case be closed.
Defense attorney Harland Braun said Friday, when the testimony was due to be released, that he would resume efforts to secure a conviction in absentia, ending his fugitive status.
Braun has tried unsuccessfully in the past, but the prosecution argued, with the support of the judges, that Polanski should appear in Los Angeles Superior Court to resolve the case.
The release of the transcript, ordered by a California appeals court when District Attorney George Gascón withdrew his predecessors’ objections to its release, could support Polanski’s claims that he was going to be jailed by a corrupt judge.
The legal saga has gone through episodes on both sides of the Atlantic for four decades, throughout a life marked by tragedy and also triumph.
As a child, Polanski escaped from the Krakow ghetto during the Holocaust. His wife, actress Sharon Tate, was one of seven people killed by supporters of Charles Manson in 1969.
The 88-year-old filmmaker was nominated for Oscars for 1974’s ‘Chinatown’ and 1979’s ‘Tess’ and won best director for ‘The Pianist.’ The Pianist”) in 2003, but was unable to receive the award because he was in danger of being arrested in the United States.
France, Switzerland and Poland have rejected US extradition requests, and Polanski continues to be celebrated in Europe, receiving praise and working with major players. However, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences stripped him of his membership in 2018 after the #MeToo movement sparked a judgment on sexual misconduct.
Polanski has argued for years that there was judicial misconduct in his case. In 2010, a Los Angeles court took Gunson’s sealed testimony about his recollection of promises the judge made to the director in 1977.
Polanski’s lawyers, who were in the room during Gunson’s testimony but were unable to use it in court, tried for years to release this transcript to help their case.
Braun alleged that the now deceased Judge Laurence Rittenband was swayed by the publicity of the case and repeatedly changed her mind about the sentence the defendant should receive.
Following a report from parole officials that Polanski should not spend any time behind bars, Rittenband sent the warden to the state prison for a 90-day diagnostic evaluation to determine the sentence. which he should face.
The judge said that as long as Polanski received a favorable prison report, he would not serve any additional time, Gunson said.
After six weeks of evaluation in prison, Polanski was released with the recommendation to serve only parole, Braun said.
But Rittenband thought the prison and parole reports were superficial and a “whitewash,” said Gunson, who agreed they downplayed or misrepresented Polanski’s crimes.
The judge privately told Gunson and Polanski’s attorney that he had to be tougher because of the criticism in the press.
He said he would send Polanski to jail for a longer period but release him within 120 days, which was possible under sentencing rules at the time.
“Roman says, ‘How can I trust the judge who lied twice?’ So it’s fine in Europe,” Braun said.
Gunson acknowledged during his testimony that the judge had the discretion to sentence Polanski up to 50 years because there was no agreed sentence. But Gunson objected to the “sham” of proceedings the judge had orchestrated and felt he had broken promises he had made to Polanski.
The victim, Samantha Geimer, has been asking for years that the case be dismissed or that Polanski be convicted in absentia. He went so far as to travel from his home in Hawaii to Los Angeles five years ago to urge a judge to end “a 40-year sentence that was imposed on both the crime victim and the the author”.
“I implore you to consider taking steps to finally end this matter as an act of mercy to me and my family,” Geimer said.
The Associated Press doesn’t usually identify victims of sexual abuse, but Geimer went public with her identity years ago and wrote a memoir called “The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski.” Roman Polanski). The cover features a photo taken by the filmmaker.
Polanski agreed to pay Geimer around $600,000 to settle a civil lawsuit in 1993.
Geimer, who has pushed for a judicial misconduct investigation, called for the transcript to be released in a letter last month and urged the district attorney’s office to reconsider the case.
Prosecutors have always opposed releasing the material, but relented earlier this week to honor Geimer’s wishes and be transparent with the public.
“This case has been described by the courts as ‘one of the longest sagas in California criminal justice history,'” Gascón said in a statement. “For years, this office has fought against the disclosure of information that the victim and the public have a right to know.”
However, the prosecutor did not indicate that Polanski could avoid a court appearance. The press release says Polanski remains at large and is due in court to be sentenced.
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