Legal team fight off extradition efforts

Roman Polanski’s attorneys are pushing back against the efforts of Los Angeles prosecutors to extradite the director, now that an appeals court has rejected his request to be sentenced in absentia.

Douglas Dalton, who is a member of Polanski’s legal team in Los Angeles, issued a statement on Friday reiterating that the Court of Appeal decision “did not decide the question of extradition.”

“The formal U.S. extradition request unquestionably contains a false sworn statement by Los Angeles prosecutors about Mr. Polanski’s punishment which we have asked the United States Department of Justice and the Swiss authorities to investigate,” Dalton said. “The D.A.’s office has known the true facts for over 30 years.”

Swiss authorities may decide soon whether to extradite Roman Polanski to the United States, as they had been awaiting a decision from California courts on whether the director could be sentenced without being present.

The California Second District Court of Appeal denied Polanski’s petition Thursday but did not issue a written opinion. Earlier in the day, the same appeals panel denied a request by Polanski’s victim, Samantha Geimer, to have the case dismissed.

State authorities have been seeking Polanski’s extradition from Switzerland so he can be sentenced on the charge of unlawful sexual intercourse. The director fled the United States on the eve of sentencing in 1978.

Dalton’s statement furthers his legal team’s contention that the director already has served his time, but the original judge who was to sentence him, Laurence Rittenband, reneged on the plea agreement before the director left the country. The length of Polanski’s sentence is a crucial point for Swiss authorities, as it must meet a minimum threshold under the terms of the extradition treaty.

Polanski was appealing a February ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza that declined the director’s request to be sentenced in absentia. In a posting on its website, the appeals court said Thursday that he “failed to demonstrate that the trial court lacked the discretion” on the issue of sentencing in absentia.

Polanski’s attorneys had also sought appointment of a special counsel to probe alleged misconduct by prosecutors along with asking that the director to be sentenced to time served.

Swiss officials had said three weeks ago that they would wait for the appeals court ruling on Polanski, under house arrest in his Swiss chalet.

The appellate court read the briefs and made what we feel is the appropriate decision,” district attorney’s spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said in a statement.

Swiss officials had no comment Thursday.

Polanski has been under house arrest since November at his chalet in the resort town of Gstaad. He was arrested in September as he travelled to a film festival.

Ted Johnson contributed to this report.

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