Roman Polanski Denied Guarantee of No Jail Time in U.S. Return

"Polanski is not entitled to avail himself of this court's power to hear his demands while he openly stands in contempt of a legal order from this very court."
Dominique Charriau/WireImage
Roman Polanski

Roman Polanski likely won't be heading back to the States anytime soon, as a Los Angeles County judge has declined to assure the director that he has served his time for the 1977 rape of a 13-year-old girl before he returns.

After multiple failed extradition attempts by U.S. prosecutors, the 83-year-old filmmaker asked the court to order the L.A. County District Attorney's Office to state on the record whether it would seek to have him serve additional time if he returned to the U.S. Alternatively, he asked to be sentenced in absentia. 

Polanski fled the country nearly 40 years ago, after he heard late judge Laurence Rittenband was going to change his sentence from 90 days of psychiatric evaluation to 50 years in prison. He served 42 days in jail before leaving the country and nearly a year in Swiss prison in the late 2000s before authorities there decided to reject an extradition request.

The L.A. Superior Court issued a statement on Monday, announcing that judge Scott Gordon denied Polanski's motions. In a 13-page order, Gordon held that Polanski's attorney Harland Braun cited no authority to support his granting a motion that would compel prosecutors to show their hand regarding custody.

"The People have unambiguously stated their desire to avoid discussing any substantive issues regarding Polanski's case until he is physically present in the court's jurisdiction," writes Gordon. "The District Attorney is acting well within her discretion to decline to state a position to a defendant absent from court and in warrant status. ... Additionally, Polanski is not entitled to avail himself of this court's power to hear his demands while he openly stands in contempt of a legal order from this very court."

Gordon denied Polanski's request to be sentenced from afar on similar grounds, and added that the doctrine of res judicata bars one trial judge from reconsidering the order of another trial judge. Judge Peter Espinoza denied the director's request for sentencing in absentia in 2010.

The L.A. district attorney's office declined to comment on Gordon's ruling, which is posted in full below. Braun has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Braun also asked the court to unseal the testimony of former Deputy District Attorney Roger Gunson, who handled Polanski's case decades ago. A hearing on that motion is set for April 26.  

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