Judge Denies Roman Polanski’s Bid to End 40-Year-Old Rape Case

Roman Polanski extradition
Jarek Praszkiewicz/AP/REX/Shutterstock

A judge on Monday rejected director Roman Polanski’s latest effort to resolve his 40-year-old rape case.

In a 13-page ruling, Judge Scott Gordon found that Polanski cannot put the case behind him so long as he refuses to return to the U.S. and submit to the court’s jurisdiction.

“Polanski cannot avail himself of the court while standing in contempt of it,” Gordon wrote.

California courts have repeatedly held that Polanski cannot litigate the case from afar.

The famed director fled the U.S. in 1978, after pleading guilty to raping a 13-year-old girl. Polanski’s attorneys have alleged that Judge Laurence Rittenband engaged in misconduct by reneging on a pledge not to sentence Polanski to prison time.

Polanski is a citizen of France, and is not subject to extradition there. The L.A. County District Attorney’s office has repeatedly sought to extradite him when he travels to other countries, without success.

Polanski has sought to resolve the rape case, also without success. The latest effort followed a decision in December by the Polish Supreme Court to deny extradition. Resolving the case would allow the 83-year-old director to travel more freely and to return to the United States.

Polanski’s attorney, Harland Braun, told Variety that Gordon’s ruling ignored his contention that the presiding judge of the L.A. court system engaged in misconduct when he issued “secret marching orders” to the trial courts to rule against Polanski in an earlier bid to dispose of the case.

“They will not even mention the emails” regarding the presiding judge, Braun said. “It’s never over until someone comes to grip with the emails.”

Polanski served 42 days at Chino state prison in 1977 for a psychiatric evaluation prior to sentencing. He also served nearly a year in jail and under house arrest in Switzerland during an extradition attempt in 2010.

Between those two stints in custody, Braun argues that Polanski has already served nearly the maximum that he could have faced at sentencing in 1978. In his motion to the court, Braun asked that the district attorney’s office be required to disclose its position on sentencing. Braun also sought to have Polanski sentenced in absentia.

“There is no authority provided by Defendant to support the order for the requested relief,” Gordon ruled. “Polanski is not entitled to avail himself of this court’s power to hear his demands while he openly stands in contempt of a legal order from this very court.”

Gordon also rejected Braun’s request that the California court adopt findings from the Polish Supreme Court decision denying extradition. “The defendant may not use his fugitive status to obtain findings from a Polish court to bind this court, from which he fled,” Gordon wrote.

Gordon also noted that trial courts and the Court of Appeals have rejected Polanski’s earlier requests. “No sufficient or compelling basis for reconsideration by the undersigned has been presented,” Gordon wrote.

The district attorney’s office declined to comment on the ruling.

Gordon set another hearing for April 26 to rule on Braun’s effort to unseal transcripts of Roger Gunson, the original prosecutor on the case.