Attorneys ask court to dismiss Polanski sex case

AP News
Posted: Dec 11, 2009 4:38 AM

Roman Polanski is getting help from his victim in a bid to have sex misconduct charges against him dismissed.

The attorney for Samantha Geimer, who long ago publicly identified herself, argued for an end to the 32-year-old case on Thursday, saying she has repeatedly said she wants it dropped.

It was a surprise courtroom request in a lively hearing where appellate justices peppered lawyers and a prosecutor with pointed questions, often interrupting their arguments to raise new issues.

The California Second District Court of Appeal is being asked to decide if it should order a lower court to consider dismissing the case without Polanski's attendance in court. The justices did not immediately issue a ruling.

Polanski was arrested in Switzerland and is now confined to his Swiss chalet in the resort town of Gstaad, and his fate is in the hands of judges in two countries. He is fighting extradition.

Associate Justice Laurie Zelon asked the prosecutor why the district attorney's office had not investigated recent allegations of misconduct by a judge and prosecutor during Polanski's 1977 court proceedings.

"Doesn't the district attorney's office have an interest in finding out what happened here?" Zelon asked.

Deputy District Attorney Phyllis Asayama replied, "Yes, we are interested. But I'm not sure we have the proper agency to do this." She didn't elaborate.

Presiding Justice Dennis Perluss, acknowledging there was misconduct by the now deceased judge, also questioned Asayama about whether "the district attorney has an obligation to see that justice is served."

Hanging over the case is an HBO documentary, "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" which uncovered the judge's actions. Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza said months ago he had watched the documentary and determined there was substantial misconduct.

Polanski sought dismissal of the case in July after the documentary detailed alleged back-room dealings between the judge and a prosecutor who said he meddled in the case. The former prosecutor recanted his statements after Polanski's arrest.

Polanski, the director of such classic films as "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby," has been a wanted man since he fled to France on the eve of sentencing in 1978 for having unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl.

He was accused of plying the teen with champagne and part of a Quaalude pill then raping her during a modeling shoot at Jack Nicholson's house in 1977.

Polanski was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy. He later pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse.

Polanski reached the plea deal in 1978, but was threatened by a judge with more prison time than previously agreed upon and fled to France before he was formally sentenced. He was arrested in Switzerland last summer.

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Polanski attorney Chad Hummel said that if the justices don't dismiss the case, they should send it back to Judge Espinoza for a hearing to decide the dismissal question in Polanski's absence.

Asayama insisted such a hearing could not be held without the director's return because of the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, a 100-year-old law that denies hearings to fugitives unless they return. She said making an exception for Polanski would set a bad precedent.

"Do we want to send the message to other defendants that flight is an option?" she asked.

Geimer's attorney, Lawrence Silver, argued for dismissal on grounds of a recently adopted law allowing victims to have a say in cases.

Justice Fred Woods responded that when the law was passed, "No one could have anticipated the facts of this case."

Silver added, "No one in this room would say the proceedings were fair. Thirty-two years is enough."

Any decision by the three-judge panel will not immediately affect Polanski's current predicament of fighting extradition from Switzerland to the United States.


AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.