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Roman Polanski files appeal in effort to have sex case dropped

July 8, 2009 | 12:54 pm

Roman Polanski’s attorneys have asked a state appeals court to overturn the May ruling of an L.A. judge refusing to throw out Polanski’s 32-year-old child sex case while the director remains a fugitive.

 In May, L.A. Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza rejected a request by Polanski’s attorneys for a dismissal of the director’s criminal case based on allegations of unethical and improper acts by a judge and prosecutor at the time of Polanski’s original case in 1977.

Espinoza said in an earlier hearing that even though he thought “substantial” misconduct had taken place, he had no choice but to deny the request unless Polanski appears in person before the court. In a writ filed Tuesday with the 2nd District Court of Appeals, attorneys for Polanski, now 75, wrote that Espinoza was legally wrong in rejecting the director’s bid for dismissal of his case based on the “fugitive disentitlement doctrine.”

Because the actions of the same court and prosecutor’s office forced Polanski to flee to escape illegal imprisonment, the court is relying on a “Catch-22” to stop an inquiry into its own misconduct, attorneys contended.

The L.A. courts and district attorney’s office “have been clear that they have no interest in addressing and remedying the misconduct that took place, perhaps seeking to avoid the anticipated political fallout,” attorneys Chad Hummel, Douglas Dalton and Bart Dalton wrote. Polanski has indicated through his lawyers that he has no intention of returning to the U.S. The writ argues that a hearing into the misconduct in the case could take place in Polanski’s absence because the director has no personal knowledge of the alleged illegal acts by the judge and prosecutor.

Attorneys also asked the appeals court to disqualify the Los Angeles district attorney’s office from taking part in future proceedings. Polanski pleaded guilty in 1977 to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl, in a deal with prosecutors in which they agreed not to pursue rape, sodomy and other charges. The case was revived late last year when Polanski’s attorneys filed motions to get the case dismissed based on interviews in an HBO documentary. In the film, the original prosecutor and defense attorney said the trial judge, Laurence Rittenband, reneged on a sentencing agreement with Polanski after the director spent 42 days behind bars for a “diagnostic study.”

Another prosecutor, who wasn’t working on the case, said he gave advice to Rittenband, who is now deceased, about the director’s sentencing.

-- Victoria Kim