Roman Polanski's Rape Case Moves Forward as Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss

Roman Polanski Prix Lumiere - Getty - H 2017
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Roman Polanski's decades-old rape case won't be dismissed despite a plea from his victim, a California judge ruled Friday.

In June, Samantha Geimer told the court she has been serving a 40-year sentence and asked for the case to be thrown out as an act of mercy to her and her family. Geimer was the 13-year-old girl Polanski was convicted of sexually assaulting in the late 1970s. The Rosemary's Baby director fled and says it's because the judge who was handling his case decades ago promised him he'd serve 90 days of psychiatric evaluation, but instead was going to sentence him to 50 years in prison.

Judge Scott Gordon allowed Geimer to testify in June and is sympathetic to her statements — but he's not convinced that dismissing the case against Polanski is in the furtherance of justice.

"The statement of the victim in this matter is strong evidence of the actual and very real impact that sexual assault has on the survivor of sexual assault," writes Gordon. "In this case Ms. Geimer was a victim of serious crimes committed by the Defendant when she was thirteen years old. ... Her statement is dramatic evidence of the long-lasting and traumatic effect these crimes, and Defendant's refusal to obey court orders and appear for sentencing, is having on her life."

Decades after the crime, Polanski's attorney, Harland Braun, has been fighting for his client to return to U.S. soil, arguing that he's already served more than the time he was supposed to.

While Gordon acknowledges that a judge can dismiss such a case upon his own motion, he holds that the court can't dismiss it "merely because it would be in the victim's best interest." He also notes that Polanski's counsel in 2008 asked the court to dismiss the case on its own motion and that request was denied by Judge Peter Espinoza, who held that the defendant must be present pursuant to an outstanding bench warrant and the fugitive disentitlement doctrine. The 2nd District Court of Appeal affirmed the ruling.

Gordon says the fundamental evidence in the case has not changed since that decision.

"The defendant continues to stand in a position that is at the core of the fugitive disentitlement doctrine," writes Gordon. "The only thing that has changed in the posture of this case is that the defendant, through counsel, continues to extend his ad hominem attacks to each judicial officer assigned to the matter and those attacks by counsel become more inappropriate with each subsequent pleading filed by the Defendant."

Braun, in a Friday filing, suggested two potential paths toward resolution. Neither Polanski nor Braun seek to justify the director's conduct in 1977 that led to the case, but they question "the honesty and integrity of some members of the criminal justice system" and hope the current court "has the wisdom and competence to resolve this ancient case."

First, Braun suggests the court sentence Polanski in absentia to 334 days in custody, which is equal to the time he's already served over the years in the U.S. and Switzerland. Alternatively, he suggests that Polanski could return to Los Angeles to receive that sentence if the court recalls its arrest warrant for 90 days so the director could travel without worry of being arrested.

"Mr. Polanski has been arrested three times on this case including [in] Los Angeles, Switzerland and Poland," writes Braun. "Because he does not owe any additional custody time to the court, there would be no purpose in an additional arrest other than to assert personal jurisdiction."

Gordon also on Friday denied Polanski's request to unseal the sworn testimony of former Deputy District Attorney Roger Gunson, who originally prosecuted the case. (Read the full decision below.)

Geimer sent The Hollywood Reporter a statement Friday in response to the decision.

"I did not expect the case to be dismissed, but hoped that a sentence of time served could be arranged either by sentencing in absentia or, by appearance by Mr. Polanski on the promise of such sentence," she said. "For those who are infuriated by my desire to see this matter finally put to rest, misconduct revealed or not, I can only say your callous disregard shows who you are. Those who have no sympathy for the anguish of myself or my family care not for victims of sexual assault. Victims are not a commodity to be used to pursue their own agendas. I have braced for this, but still it's a heavy blow on my hopes, I will push on despite my tears and disappointment."