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California Briefing / Los Angeles

Polanski wants ruling overturned

July 09, 2009|Victoria Kim

Roman Polanski's attorneys have asked a state appeals court to overturn the May ruling of a Los Angeles judge refusing to throw out Polanski's 32-year-old child sex case while the director remains a fugitive.

In May, Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza rejected a request by Polanski's attorneys to dismiss the criminal case based on allegations of unethical and improper acts by a judge and prosecutor at the time of Polanski's original case in 1977.

Espinoza said in an earlier hearing that even though he thought "substantial" misconduct had taken place, he had no choice but to deny the request unless Polanski appears in person before the court.

In a writ filed Tuesday, Polanski's attorneys wrote that Espinoza was wrong in rejecting the director's bid for dismissal of his case. Because the actions of the same court and prosecutor's office forced Polanski to flee to escape illegal imprisonment, the court is relying on a "Catch-22" to stop an inquiry into its own misconduct, the director's attorneys contended.

District attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said her office believes Espinoza's ruling was proper.

Polanski, now 75, has indicated through his lawyers that he has no intention of returning to the United States.

The writ argues that a hearing into the misconduct in the case could take place in Polanski's absence because the director has no personal knowledge of the alleged illegal acts by the judge and prosecutor. Attorneys also asked the appeals court to disqualify the Los Angeles County district attorney's office from taking part in future proceedings.

Polanski pleaded guilty in 1977 to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl, in a deal with prosecutors in which they agreed not to pursue rape, sodomy and other charges.

The case was revived late last year when Polanski's attorneys filed motions to get the case dismissed based on interviews in an HBO documentary.

In the film, the original prosecutor and defense attorney said the trial judge, Laurence Rittenband, reneged on a sentencing agreement with Polanski after the director spent 42 days behind bars for a "diagnostic study."

-- Victoria Kim

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