LOS ANGELES (AP) — Roman Polanski’s lawyer told a judge Monday the fugitive film director won’t appear at a hearing this week to seek dismissal of the decades-old sex case against him.
Attorney Chad Hummel argued in a court document that Polanski’s personal appearance in court is irrelevant to the question of whether judicial and prosecutorial misconduct violated his constitutional rights. He said there is no legal precedent to support a finding by Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza that the issues can’t be addressed in Polanski’s absence.
“The misconduct is plainly evident from the existing record,” Hummel said in his filing. He also noted that the judge’s refusal to dismiss the case is contrary to the wishes of the victim, Samantha Geimer, who joined in Polanski’s bid for dismissal.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office opposes dismissal and has advocated that Polanski appear in person in order to have his request heard. If Polanski returned to the United States he would likely be arrested on a fugitive warrant.
“We feel the law is very clear on this matter. But this has always been a matter between Mr. Polanski and the court,” said district attorney’s spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons.
Espinoza said earlier that after watching an HBO documentary on the case he agrees there was misconduct by now-deceased Judge Laurence Rittenband, who arranged a plea bargain but reneged on it.
Polanski, now 75, pleaded guilty in 1977 to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl but fled to France in February 1978 after Rittenband threatened him with more prison time than agreed upon. Rittenband also said Polanski would have to voluntarily deport himself after serving his sentence.
“Having reviewed all the evidence in this case, there was substantial misconduct that occurred in the pendency of this case,” Espinoza said in a February proceeding. But he said that if Polanski wants a ruling on that underlying issue, “He just needs to submit to the jurisdiction of this court.”
The judge said he was relying on the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, which says that fugitives are not entitled to the processes of the court. In addition, he cited the more than 30-year delay since Polanski fled.
Hummel said in his filing that the doctrine “should not be invoked further to cover up misconduct and violate constitutional rights.”
He said that if the judge makes his tentative ruling permanent at the hearing scheduled Thursday, Polanski will ask the court of appeal to intervene.
Polanski lives in France, where his film career has continued to flourish. He received a directing Oscar in absentia for the 2002 movie “The Pianist.” While still working in the United States, he directed such classics as “Chinatown” and “Rosemary’s Baby.”