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Roman Polanski said he'd pay to end victim's lawsuit

The Oscar-winning film director agreed to give the victim in the child-sex case $500,000, court documents show, but it's unclear if he did.

October 03, 2009|Harriet Ryan and Joe Mozingo

Roman Polanski agreed to pay the victim in his child-sex case at least $500,000 as part of a civil settlement, but then failed to live up to the terms of the agreement, according to court filings reviewed Friday.

The documents leave open the question of whether the fugitive filmmaker has ever paid the money he promised in the confidential 1993 settlement with Samantha Geimer, but a change in her approach to Polanski in subsequent years suggests they may have resolved the issue.

In 1996, she was still trying to get the funds and even attempted to garnish his pay from movie studios. By the following year, she had stopped asking for court help to get paid and wrote a letter to a judge in support of Polanski returning to the United States and settling his criminal case without spending more time behind bars.

"It has long been my personal opinion that he be allowed to do so," she wrote to Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler on May 28, 1997. "It is also my opinion as the victim of this crime that the 42 days he has already served is excessive."

Media outlets requested access to the archived file from Geimer's 1988 civil suit this week after Swiss police apprehended Polanski in connection with the three-decade-old Los Angeles criminal case. The documents were provided to reporters in a downtown courthouse Friday.

Geimer, who in recent years has been an outspoken proponent of dropping the charges against Polanski, has acknowledged reaching a civil settlement with him. The complete terms of the 1993 agreement remain unknown, but some details -- including the half-million-dollar payout -- are contained in filings arising from her efforts in the mid-1990s to compel Polanski, who was living in France, to live up to the deal they struck.

Geimer was 13 in 1977 when she told police that Polanski had raped and sodomized her during a photo shoot at actor Jack Nicholson's Mulholland Drive home. Polanski, then 43, pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, but left the country before sentencing. A decade later, Geimer filed suit against him, using the pseudonym "Jane Doe" and seeking unspecified financial damages for, among other things, sexual assault, false imprisonment, seduction of a minor and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Polanski initially fought the claim. But after Polanski was deposed in Paris in 1993, the sides began settlement discussions, records show.

The deal they hammered out called, in part, for Polanski to pay Geimer $500,000 with interest no later than Oct. 11, 1995, according to filings by her attorney. The deadline came and went with no check from Polanski, her attorneys alleged in court documents. A court ordered a formal judgment against Polanski for the amount plus interest -- just over $600,000. The following year, her attorneys enlisted the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in an attempt to garnish money intended for Polanski from movie studios, his agent and the Screen Actors Guild, the records show.

The case file does not reveal how the issue was resolved. The final document filed in the case bears an August 1996 stamp and has the director still owing Geimer $604,416.

The file hints at other elements of the settlement. A document written by Geimer's lawyer refers to a life insurance policy Polanski was to buy. And a note on an order signed by a judge the day after the settlement was finalized suggests a more complex financial arrangement than the $500,000 payment. The note read "250,000 + 500,000 + maybe 500,000" followed by the words "settled" and "confidential."

Attorneys for Geimer and Polanski did not return calls seeking comment. The judge who wrote the order is now retired and said he does not recall the details of the case. Tapes and transcripts of the proceedings have been destroyed, court officials said.

Geimer has said she believes Polanski was mistreated by the court system and has suffered enough for his crime. In 2003, when the director was nominated for an Academy Award, she wrote an opinion piece for The Times saying the criminal case should not stand in the way of his attending the ceremony. He ended up winning best director for "The Pianist."

When the filmmaker asked a judge last year to dismiss the entire case because of alleged judicial and prosecutorial misconduct, Geimer said she welcomed an opportunity to finally end the case.

"It's been a long time," she said. "I don't wish for him to be held to further punishment or consequences."

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harriet.ryan@latimes.com

joe.mozingo@latimes.com

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