Wednesday, July 8, 2009

'Dismiss Polanski sex case'

Polanski (left), 75, pleaded guilty in 1977 to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl and then fled to France. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES - LAWYERS for fugitive director Roman Polanski asked an appeals court on Tuesday to overturn a judge's refusal to throw out a decades-old sex case.

Attorney Chad Hummel told the California Second District Court of Appeal that a Los Angeles judge wouldn't consider Polanski's case because the director had fled the country 31 years ago and has been living in France since then.

He wrote in a petition that Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza refused to consider that Polanski 'had been effectively forced to leave the jurisdiction in 1978 to avoid the imposition of a second illegal term of incarceration. ...'

Mr Hummel asserted that Espinoza relied on the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, which says fugitives are not entitled to the processes of the court as long as they remain at large, to avoid considering the underlying facts of the case, including allegations of misconduct by the judge in the sex case and a prosecutor assigned to his court.

Mr Hummel urged the court to dismiss the case or assign it to another court.

'This case is one of the most notorious and high-profile criminal cases in our state's history,' he wrote. 'There is no reported case like it; it has lasted more than 30 years and has been infected from the outset by extraordinary misconduct.'

Mr Hummel noted that the case is politically unpopular given the underlying allegations. He accused the district attorney's office and the court of skirting issues of misconduct 'perhaps seeking to avoid the anticipated political fallout.'

Polanski, 75, pleaded guilty in 1977 to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl and then fled to France. He recently sought dismissal on grounds of misconduct by the now-deceased judge who had arranged a plea bargain and then reneged on it. He risks arrest on a fugitive warrant if he returns to Los Angeles.

In exile, his film career has continued to flourish. He received a directing Oscar in absentia for the 2002 movie 'The Pianist.' While still in the United States, he directed such classic films as 'Chinatown' and 'Rosemary's Baby.' -- AP

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