L.A. judge denies plea to be sentenced in absentia

An attorney for Roman Polanski said he would appeal a ruling denying the director’s legal efforts to be sentenced in absentia.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled on Friday that Polanski “needs to surrender” to be sentenced in the 1977 sex case before there can be a hearing on the director’s contention that there had been judicial misconduct in his original trial. Polanski’s lawyers had hoped that having their client sentenced in absentia would be a possible way to resolve the case.

Bart Dalton, one of Polanski’s attorneys, said the legal team would turn to a state court to appeal the ruling by Judge Peter Espinosa.

Polanski is in Switzerland under house arrest, awaiting a decision from authorities there on whether he will be extradited.

In a contentious hearing, the director’s lead attorney, Chad Hummel, argued that Polanski already had served the time that now-deceased Judge Laurence Rittenband had promised — 42 days in a California prison where he underwent a psychiatric assessment. The length of his sentence would weigh on the decision of Swiss authorities, as the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Switzerland applies to fugitives who face at least six months in prison, Polanski’s lawyers contend.

In denying Polanski’s request, Espinoza cited a legal doctrine of fugitive disentitlement, which holds that a defendant who flees cannot call on the court for help.

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