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L.A. County D.A.'s office denies Polanski case coverup

Prosecutors say allegations by the film director's lawyers that information was withheld from the defense are false.

March 31, 2010|By Andrew Blankstein

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office on Tuesday rejected claims by Roman Polanski's attorneys that the office hid communications between a judge and supervising prosecutors in the director's 1977 sexual assault case.

Polanski's lawyers described "communications" that involved Laurence J. Rittenband, the original judge in the case, and two officials at the district attorney's office, Michael Montagna and Stephen Trott.

After the discussions, Trott and Montagna then blocked an effort by the prosecutor on the case, Roger Gunson, to have Rittenband removed, according to the 68-page court filing.

On Tuesday, prosecutors fired back, accusing Polanski's lawyers of making it appear as though the district attorney's office had withheld information when officials had disclosed information about the meetings and Gunson's recollections.

"The only deception propagated in this matter is that created by Polanski, who continues to present only a part of the truth, omits the people's role in uncovering that truth, then engages in rank speculation that the information was not provided sooner because of that coverup," prosecutors said.

Polanski's attorney said the contacts between Rittenband and the prosecutors present further proof that the director was treated unfairly during the trial and should not be extradited to Los Angeles from Switzerland for sentencing.

Rittenband's conduct was examined in an HBO documentary, which presented evidence that the judge acted inappropriately.

Polanski had agreed to plead guilty to unlawful intercourse with a minor in exchange for the dismissal of more serious rape charges. He agreed that Rittenband would determine the sentence. Rittenband sent the filmmaker to the state prison in Chino for a 90-day "diagnostic evaluation" that he said would "enable the court to reach a fair and just decision."

Prison officials released Polanski after 42 days and advised the judge that testing indicated his sentence should not include additional prison time. Rittenband labeled the prison report "a whitewash" and said he planned to send Polanski back to prison for an additional 48 days if the director voluntarily agreed to deportation. Informed of this by his attorney, Polanski fled the United States, seeking refuge in France.

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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