HBO's Polanski film causes dispute

Did judge insist that any court hearing be televised?

Did the Los Angeles Superior Court judge who presided over a 1997 meeting that would have paved the way for Roman Polanski to return to the U.S. insist that any court hearing -- which would have ended the now-30-year-old case in which the director pleaded guilty to unlawful intercourse with a minor -- be televised?

That is the new dispute that has broken out in the wake of HBO's Monday night airing of Marina Zenovich's documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired."

The docu, which played Sundance and Cannes, originally concluded with a statement that an agreement had been reached that would have disposed of the case without further jail time, but the judge insisted the hearing be televised. Because of that condition, Polanski, fearing a media circus, did not return.

Calling that assertion "a complete fabrication," court officials Monday called on HBO to change the docu's final wording. The version that aired that night said the court insisted only that the hearing be held in open court.

But on Wednesday, Douglas Dalton, who represented Polanski, and Roger Gunson, the former deputy district attorney who prosecuted the director, issued a joint statement contradicting that version. They said they met in 1997 with Judge Larry Paul Fidler, a new judge on the case, who was willing to end Polanski's probation without further jail time as long as the hearing was televised.

Dalton recalled that "Fidler would require television coverage at the proposed hearing," while Gunson said "television coverage (was) discussed at the meeting."

"It is our shared view that Monday's false and reprehensible statement by the Los Angeles Superior Court continues their inappropriate handling of the Polanski case," they said.

Richard Doyle, director of the District Attorney's Specialized Prosecutions Bureau, rejects that version of events. "There was no requirement that the hearing be televised," he said, adding a new caveat that the promise of no further jail time was not guaranteed. "While additional prison time would be unlikely if Mr. Polanski's conduct has been favorable over the last three decades, prison always remains a possibility."