- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 20, 2010

LOS ANGELES — Lawyers for Roman Polanski said Tuesday he should be sentenced in absentia to time served and accused the district attorney of playing politics with the case.

In a legal brief filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the attorneys urged a full hearing with witnesses testifying about allegations of official misconduct in the handling of Polanski’s 32-year-old sex case.

Attorneys Chad Hummell and Bart Dalton accused prosecutors of misleading the Los Angeles court as well as Swiss authorities weighing whether to extradite Polanski to the United States.

“Politics seems to be interfering with the just administration of the law,” the lawyers said.

They accused District Attorney Steve Cooley of “directing or at least condoning his office presenting a false record to the Swiss government, all in an attempt to extradite Mr. Polanski without revealing facts that render extradition impermissible.”

They said Mr. Cooley was aware for years of facts suggesting misconduct in the orginal case.

The lawyers argued that a misdemeanor sentence of time served is appropriate and would allow for sentencing in absentia.

“The only unique circumstance in this case, as opposed to other cases where a defendant may request sentencing in absentia, is its notoriety,” the lawyers said. “To allow Mr. Polanski to be sentenced in absentia could finally end this case without Mr. Polanski needing to return to the jurisdiction.”

Polanski’s lawyers noted that in its brief filed last Friday, the district attorney’s office used inflammatory language, referring to Polanski as “a child rapist.” He admitted to unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in a plea bargain that led to the dismissal of other charges.

“The use of this phrase is highly inappropriate and deliberately inflammatory,” the legal document said. “The terms ‘rape’ and ‘child’ appear nowhere in this statute. This phrase was obviously calculated to garner, as it did, attention in the press.”

Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza has scheduled a hearing for Friday to determine whether Polanski can be sentenced in absentia while under house arrest in Gstaad, Switzerland.

Insisting Polanski must appear in person, Deputy District Attorney David Walgren characterized the director as “a fugitive and convicted child rapist (who) must not be permitted to instruct this court how to proceed.”

“The operation of a fair and equitable judicial system mandates that criminals, even those with celebrity status and wealthy means abide by lawful court orders,” Mr. Walgren wrote.

The 13-page defense brief recounted the facts of Polanski’s 1977 case before a now-deceased judge. The lawyers maintain that the late Superior Court Judge Laurence J. Rittenband sentenced Polanski to a diagnostic study at a California prison where he served 42 days. Although the judge told attorneys this would be Polanski’s full sentence, he later indicated he was going to renege on the bargain and give him a harsher sentence at a scheduled hearing. Polanski fled to France and has been a fugitive ever since.

The key point of dispute is whether Polanski was ever sentenced. The new defense brief argued that Rittenband’s promise to Polanski is binding and he has served his full sentence. The prosecution says he was never formally sentenced.

Polanski, 76, director of “Chinatown” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” was accused of plying the teen with champagne and part of a Quaalude pill and then raping her during a modeling shoot at Jack Nicholson’s house in 1977.

He initially was 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.

His victim has said she wants the case dismissed and feels she is being victimized again by all the publicity.

A Paris judge ordered three French publications Tuesday to pay damages to Polanski and his family for printing unauthorized photos, but the sums were a fraction of what he sought. Many of the photographs depicted Polanski, his wife or children in or near the Gstaad chalet.

Polanski and his wife had sued two French newspapers and two French magazines for a total of about $217,215, complaining the publications ran photos that invaded their privacy. With most of the decisions in, they have so far been awarded about $17,620.

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