Swiss officials say they will not make a decision on extraditing Roman Polanski until the California appellate court rules whether he can be sentenced in absentia.
Polanski, under house arrest in his Swiss chalet, is seeking to be sentenced without being present for it as a way to resolve his 32-year-old case, in which he plead guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl.
Folco Calli, a spokesman for the Swiss Justice Ministry, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the action “allows the extradition process to adapt to the U.S. proceedings.”
The case is currently pending before the state Court of Appeal in Los Angeles, although it is unclear when they will rule. Their decision could spare him from being sent back to the United States, depending on the length of his sentence or whether he is credited for time already served.
Last month, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza declined Polanski’s request to be sentenced in absentia. siding with prosecutors who argued that he could not seek relief from the court after fleeing the country in 1978 before a formal sentencing proceeding.
In a filing on Tuesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office pushed back against Polanski’s accusations that the office was trying to conceal evidence of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct back then, and they cited instances where information was turned over to Polanski’s team.
Polanski’s attorneys say that the judge in the case, Laurence Rittenband, who is now deceased, engaged in ex parte conversations with prosecutors that influenced his decision, and that he reneged on his sentencing promises, among other charges. Some of their allegations were triggered by the 2008 HBO documentary, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.”
Polanski was originally accused of raping the girl during a photo shoot in 1977, and was indicted on six felony counts. But he plead guilty to a lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse.
Rittenband agreed to drop the charges and release him for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. But when Polanski was released by the evaluator after just 42 days, Rittenband said he was going to send him back to serve the remaining time. Polanski fled the country before he could be formally sentenced, and lived in freedom in Europe until he was seized by Swiss authorities last fall as he was on the way to a film festival.
In a filing earlier this month, Polanski’s attorneys cited newly uncovered evidence from a recent examination of the original prosecutor in the case, Roger Gunson. Gunson said that in 1977, two senior officials in his office, deputy district attorneys Michael Montagna and Stephen Trott, learned of misconduct on the part of Rittenband but never told Polanski’s defense lawyers about it at the time. They claim that Montagna and Trott went to Rittenband, who admitted the misconduct, but that they stymied Gunson’s efforts to have the judge removed.
In their most recent filing, the District Attorney says that the “‘new allegations’ of misconduct are based on speculation and belief on the part of Mr. Gunson who readily admits that he was not present at any meeting and ‘believed that Trott…and/or Montagna proceeded to meet directly with Judge Rittenband.” Montagna has denied that any such conversation took place, and Trott, now a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, has declined comment.
Prosecutors said that they would agree to hearing on Polanski’s accusations, but only if the director was present.
“The specter of a defendant sitting in a Swiss chalet while making demands upon the judicial system, hurts the integrity of the judicial system just as much or more as the revelations of 30-year-old charges of misconduct by a long ago deceased jurist,” the District Attorney’s brief stated.