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Swiss court agrees to bail request by Polanski

The Oscar-winning director will spend the holidays at his Alpine chalet, complete with electronic monitoring, after he agrees to $4.5-million bail. Legal experts are surprised.

November 26, 2009|By Richard Winton
  • Roman Polanski's chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, is where the fugitive 76-year-old director would be restricted, complete with electronic monitoring.
Roman Polanski's chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, is where the fugitive… (FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP/Getty…)

Roman Polanski is expected to spend the holidays under electronic monitoring at his posh Alpine chalet after a Swiss court Wednesday agreed to a $4.5-million bail request by the famed director.

Legal experts said the bail probably will lengthen the battle over whether Polanski should be extradited to Los Angeles to face sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old more than three decades ago. The decision also raises other questions, given that Polanski fled from the United States just before his sentencing in 1978. Swiss justice officials have repeatedly denied his bail requests, saying he is a flight risk.

Under the terms of the bail, Polanski, 76, would be restricted to his chalet in Gstaad, a ski resort with mountain views. The village of 2,500 has long been known as a celebrity hangout, having been home to Elizabeth Taylor, Roger Moore and David Niven, among others.

Dmitry Gorin, a former prosecutor who has represented people overseas facing charges in Los Angeles, said he was surprised that the Swiss court would grant bail given Polanski's record of flight. Others agreed.

"It is very rare to get bail in an extradition case and especially in cases where the person's fled," said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and Loyola law professor. "This is a little like giving bail to O.J. after the Bronco chase."

Levenson said she believes that the bail could slow down the extradition process, because Polanski would have less of an incentive to resolve the issue if he is out of jail. "A Swiss chalet is a lot nicer than a jail here," she said.

The Swiss court decided to grant bail apparently based on Polanski's pledge of $4.5-million bail along with what the court called supporting measures, including electronic monitoring that would alert the authorities if he tried leave the home or remove a monitoring bracelet.

The Ministry of Justice had argued that Polanski should remain behind bars until extradition is resolved. Switzerland's justice minister, however, told Swiss national TV that it was not likely to appeal the court ruling

Ministry spokesman Folco Galli told the Associated Press the final decision on transferring Polanski to his chalet would be made "quickly."

"The 76-year-old appellant is married and the father of two minors," the court said as it considered Polanski's offer of bail using his Paris apartment. "It can be assumed that as a responsible father he will, especially in view of his advanced age, attach greater importance to the financial security of his family than a younger person."

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office declined to comment on the Swiss court's action. Polanski's attorneys could not be reached for comment.

Polanski was arrested Sept. 26 as he went to Zurich to get a lifetime achievement award.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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