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US vows continued pursuit of Roman Polanski
LOS ANGELES (AP) - From prosecutors in Los Angeles to justice officials in Washington, the Swiss decision to free Roman Polanski was described as a disappointment and to some, an injustice.
The Swiss, for their part, described Polanski as “a free man.”
The decision by the Swiss government to set Polanski free dealt another twist in a sex case that has spanned three decades and two continents. Whether the case continues depends largely on where Polanski travels.
A warrant for his arrest remains active, effectively barring the 76-year-old from returning to the U.S., which he fled in 1978 on the eve of sentencing for a charge of having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.
Los Angeles prosecutors argue that the director must return there to argue that his case was mishandled by a now-deceased judge and a former prosecutor. Polanski has been equally unwilling to return and press his case in person.
The Swiss ruling cannot be appealed, and within hours of the ruling Polanksi appeared to have left the multimillion-dollar chalet where he had been confined on house arrest since last year.
He is free to return to his native France, which does not extradite its citizens, but he has not been seen there publicly since the ruling. His wife left their Paris apartment at midday Tuesday without speaking to reporters gathered outside.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, who is running for California attorney general, said his office will work with federal officials to have Polanski returned for sentencing if he’s arrested in a country with a favorable extradition treaty. Cooley’s office said last September after Polanski’s arrest that it had previously sought his arrest in England, Thailand and Israel.
Cooley called the decision a “disservice to justice and other victims as a whole.”
The Oscar-winning director of “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Chinatown” and “The Pianist” was accused of plying his victim with champagne and part of a Quaalude during a 1977 modeling shoot and raping her. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy, but pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse.
The Swiss government said its decision to reject extradition for Polanski was based in part on U.S. authorities failing to turn over transcripts of secret testimony given by the attorney who originally handled the director’s case. The testimony remains sealed, and can only be used if the former prosecutor was unavailable for an evidentiary hearing, a Los Angeles court spokesman said.
The testimony “should prove” that Polanski actually served his sentence while undergoing a court-ordered diagnostic study after charges were filed, the Swiss Justice Ministry said.
“If this were the case, Roman Polanski would actually have already served his sentence and therefore both the proceedings on which the U.S. extradition request is founded and the request itself would have no foundation,” the ministry said. They also noted that Polanski’s victim, Samantha Geimer, has repeatedly asked that the case be dropped.
Cooley, who is the fifth district attorney to handle Polanski’s case, accused the Swiss of exploiting a quirk of California law to set the director free and the decision was a “rejection of the competency of the California courts.
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