Rift divides Polanski defense team
Filmmaker's U.S. attorneys refute his French lawyerPARIS/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A French attorney for Roman Polanski who said the film director would not return voluntarily to the United States to face child sex charges is not authorized to speak in the case, Polanski's U.S. attorneys said on Friday.
Polanski, 76, is being held in a Swiss prison pending a decision on a U.S. extradition request. He fled the United States in 1978 while awaiting sentencing for having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl, and he was arrested in September in Switzerland on a U.S. warrant.
The director's French lawyer, Herve Temime, told Le Figaro newspaper in an interview published on Friday that Polanski would not return voluntarily to the United States. But Los Angeles attorneys Douglas Dalton, Bart Dalton and Chad Hummel said in a statement that Temime's comments were not authorized by Polanski.
"The French lawyers do not represent him in the case and do not speak for him about it," the statement said.
The statement said only the three Los Angeles lawyers, along with Dr. Lorenz Erni in Switzerland and Polanski himself "are authorized to speak on his behalf" about the case.
A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles lawyers declined to comment beyond the statement.
Temime has long been identified as representing Polanski in France, and he told Le Figaro in the interview that he believed the "Chinatown" director had already been punished for the original offense after undergoing psychiatric tests during a 42-day period in detention in California in 1978.
Temime said the fact the event took place more than 30 years ago should also weigh in any decision on extradition.
"We also maintain that Mr. Polanski did not face a fair trial in Los Angeles," he said. "For all these reasons, among others, his position remains unchanged: he will not accept being extradited to the United States."
Temime said Polanski was bearing up well in prison but had asked to be released provisionally and was prepared to offer a substantial financial bond as well as other guarantees against flight, including wearing an electronic bracelet.
Polanski faces up to two years in a U.S. prison if he is extradited but if he does not agree to go voluntarily, the process could take many months or even years.
The Los Angeles attorneys said questions about dismissal of the criminal case would be addressed in court. A new hearing is set for December 10 in Los Angeles.
The arrest of the Oscar-winning director, who holds dual French and Polish nationality, triggered a political storm in France after Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand and numerous prominent artists sprang to his defense.
Others argued Polanski's status as a film director should not protect him from the law.
Polanski was indicted on six charges, including rape, for having sex after giving the girl champagne and drugs. He pleaded guilty to one count of sex with a minor, but fled before the case was concluded, believing a judge would sentence him to prison despite a plea for time already served.
Polanski's films include "The Pianist" in 2002 for which he won an Academy Award, "Rosemary's Baby," "Repulsion" and "Knife in the Water."
(Writing by James Mackenzie in Paris and Bob Tourtellotte in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney)