Judges' Emails Spark New Questions in Roman Polanski Rape Case

5:03 PM PST 01/15/2014 by Debbie Emery
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Roman Polanski

The messages have led to revelations regarding the conduct of an original judge in the 1977 statutory rape case of the film director.

Newly disclosed emails regarding Roman Polanski's statutory rape case have unearthed alleged revelations of misconduct by one of the judges who originally handled the case in the 1970s.

In the messages written in 2008, a current judge at the Los Angeles County Superior Court suggested that if Polanski, now an 80-year-old fugitive, were to return to the U.S. then he would be compelled to free him based on the actions at the time of Laurence A. Rittenband, who died in 1993.

Judge Larry P. Fidler also said he feared a public backlash if he ruled in the Rosemary's Baby director's favor, reported The New York Times.

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"Since the law was on his side because of Rittenband's conduct, I was convinced I was toast if he ever came back, and my career would be over," Judge Fidler wrote to the court's public information officer in a June 9, 2008, email obtained separately by The New York Times and by Polanski's lawyers.

"I've told several judges over the years that I had pity for any judge getting that case," Judge Fidler said, calling the 1977 sexual assault case of a 13-year-old "poison."

Peter P. Espinoza, a judge who handled the case at a later date, was copied in a further email in 2008 in which the head of the court's criminal division was said to have issued "marching orders" that Polanski not be sentenced without returning to the United States, according to the Times. The judge later ruled that he must appear for a sentencing to take place.

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Polanski fled to France in 1978 after pleading guilty in the rape case as part of a plea bargain. He was placed under house arrest in 2009 in Switzerland but authorities refused to extradite him to the U.S.

According to the Times report, Polanski's lawyers, Douglas and Bart Dalton, said they have notified the Los Angeles state court and the district attorney's office in L.A. of the emails and the expectation of renewed legal action in the case. They added that representatives of the court and prosecutors' office had yet to respond.

The director has continued to create films despite his absence from Hollywood, including The Pianist, for which he won an Oscar in 2003.

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His alleged victim, Samantha Geimer, broke her silence last summer after 35 years in the emotional memoir, The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski.

The cover portrays a haunting close-up shot of the teenage Geimer (then known by her maiden name, Samantha Gailey), taken on Feb. 20, 1977, less than three weeks before Polanski allegedly drugged and raped her at Jack Nicholson's Mulholland Drive home during a modeling shoot when he also gave her alcohol and a quaalude.

In a bizarre twist, the book, which went on sale in September 2013, reveals that the photo was in fact taken by Polanski himself.

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