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Updated: January 23, 2010 09:41 IST

US court advises Polanski's presence to speed up trial

AP
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A file picture of Film Director Roman Polanski in France.
AP A file picture of Film Director Roman Polanski in France.

Film director Roman Polanski lost his bid on Friday to be sentenced without returning to the U.S. when a judge ruled the director must be present in court if he wants to resolve his 32-year-old sex case.

Reiterating Polanski was a fugitive from justice, Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza said he was acting to protect “the dignity of the court.”

Bart Dalton, a lawyer for Polanski, said the ruling would be appealed.

Before the hearing, the judge provided lawyers with his 11-page tentative decision denying the request by the 76-year-old Polanski, who fled the U.S. in 1978 after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.

Lawyers Chad Hummel, who represents Polanski, and Lawrence Silver, who represents victim Samantha Geimer, tried to convince Espinoza to change his mind.

But Espinoza cited a law that says someone who flees is not entitled to the processes of the court unless they return. The judge also cited the length of time Polanski had been a fugitive and the deterrent factor for others who might consider fleeing to escape justice.

Deputy District Attorney David Walgren argued vehemently against Polanski’s bid to be sentenced without returning to this country from Switzerland, where he is under house arrest and fighting extradition.

Espinoza, however, interrupted Walgren as he began to denounce the director as “this criminal, this fugitive, this child rapist.”

“This is not helpful,” Espinoza snapped. “I’d rather not inflame this proceeding.”

Polanski was initially accused of plying the 13-year-old girl with champagne and part of a Quaalude pill then raping her at actor Jack Nicholson’s house.

Polanski 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.

Silver stepped to the lectern at one point to plead for a resolution of the case, saying Geimer wants it to be over.

“I implore you to end the 32-year prolonged suffering of this victim,” Silver said, citing a State constitution amendment known as Marcy’s Law meant to protect victims’ rights in criminal cases.

“I don’t think it was ever intended for this use,” said Espinoza, who found that Geimer’s rights have not been violated in the current proceeding.

In court documents, Polanski’s attorneys said the late Superior Court Judge Laurence J. Rittenband sentenced the director in 1978 to a diagnostic study at a California prison where he served 42 days.

Although the judge told attorneys that 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.

His attorneys said the judge’s promise is binding and Polanski has served his full sentence. They have asked Espinoza for a full hearing with witnesses about allegations of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct.

Espinoza added another twist in his remarks from the bench by saying he believes Rittenband originally intended to sentence Polanski to a maximum 90-day period of incarceration for the diagnostic study but never officially imposed the penalty in court.

Prosecutors insist Polanski must appear in a Los Angeles courtroom and not be permitted to manipulate the justice system.

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