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Swiss mull Polanski’s return to U.S.

California appeals court denies absentia request

Swiss authorities may decide soon whether to extradite Roman Polanski to the United States, now that an appeals court has denied the director’s request to be sentenced in absentia.

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.

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. Polanski’s attorneys had no comment Thursday and have not indicated whether they will appeal the case further.

“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.

French magazine L’Express reported recently that French president Nicolas Sarkozy hand-delivered a personal letter to Barack Obama from Polanski asking for clemency. The missive was delivered during last week’s international anti-nuke proliferation summit in Washington, D.C.

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