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L.A. prosecutors planned Polanski arrest after learning he would be accepting award in Zurich [Updated]


Director Roman Polanski is in Swiss custody awaiting extradition to Los Angeles after being arrested in Zurich in connection with his 1977 Los Angeles rape case.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office learned last week that Polanski had plans to travel to Zurich this weekend, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.

Prosecutors sent a provisional arrest warrant to the U.S. Justice Department, which presented it to  Swiss authorities. On at least two previous occasions, the district attorney’s office has received reports that Polanski had travel arrangements to countries with extradition treaties with the U.S. and prepared paperwork for his arrest, Gibbons said.

“But in the end, he apparently found out about it and didn’t go,” she said.

Asked if prosecutors would ask that Polanski be sentenced to time behind bars if he was returned to the U.S., she said, “We’ve always maintained this is a matter between Polanski and the court. … We initially recommended prison time for him, but I can’t see into the future.”

An attorney for Polanski, Chad Hummel, declined to comment. “Right now, we’re not in a position to say anything,” he said.

Polanski, now 76 and a married father of two, asked the court to throw out the entire case in December based on new allegations of prosectorial and judicial misconduct detailed in an HBO documentary last year. The L.A. district attorney’s office argued that he could not make such a request while a fugitive, and an L.A. judge earlier this year agreed. A 1997 attempt at settling the case also failed.

Polanski was arrested 31 years ago at a Beverly Hills hotel after a 13-year-old girl accused him of sexually assaulting her during a photo shoot at actor Jack Nicholson's house.

A 1978 arrest warrant, issued after he failed to appear at his sentencing on the statutory-rape conviction, is still in effect, and he would be taken into custody upon arrival on U.S. soil. The director of "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby" has not returned to the U.S. since then but continues to work as a director, winning an Oscar for "The Pianist."

The Swiss Justice Ministry said Polanski was taken into custody after he flew in to receive an award at the Zurich Film Festival.

[Updated at 9:20 a.m.: Polanski’s stay in Switzerland could be brief if he opts to return to Los Angeles.

“If he agrees with an extradition, he could be sent to the U.S. in the next days,” said Guido Ballmer, a spokesman for the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police.

But if Polanski declines to come back without a fight -- perhaps a more likely scenario given his three decades as a fugitive -- the court process could be quite lengthy, Ballmer told The Times. The appeals process has several layers and could last months, if not longer.]

The ministry issued the following statement:

"Yesterday evening Roman Polanski was arrested at his arrival and was put in provisional detention in view to extradition based on an US arrest warrant. The US authorities are accusing Roman Polanski of sexual acts with minors, specifically in a case of 1977 with a 13 year old girl in Los Angeles. Since the end of 2005 the US authorities are searching worldwide for Roman Polanski.

"An US arrest warrant against Roman Polanski exists since 1978. Whether Roman Polanski will be effectively extradited to the USA or not, can be established only, after the extradition process judicially has been finalised. It is possible to appeal at the federal penal court of justice against an arrest warrant in view to extradition as well as against an extradition decision. Their decisions can be taken further to the federal court of justice. In respect to this pending process it is not possible to give any further information."

-- Harriet Ryan

Photo: 2005 file image, Gerard Julien / AFP/Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (122)

He should face the same punishment as anyone else. If he's allowed to go without punishment, then everyone who does this should also. It's that simple.

Why do people even care about this when Michigan State is the real issue. Our football team is horrendous.We dont stand a chance against Michigan this year. The University of Michigan is obviously the best team in the state this year. I have to say Go Blue. If it wasnt for UCLA I would say they are the best team in the country. In fact Polansky probably couldve attended State with the rest of the thugs we produce there. I say Go Blue,Viva UCLA, Free Polanski and Free Plax

Really the right thing to do is to leave the decision to the now 45-year old lady. If she came out saying she still felt abused, I'd have no problem nailing the guy.

However to the great disappointment of the moral absolutist horde, said lady has gone on record that she would much rather the entire episode be forgotten.

Likely she now has children in the teens and the last thing her family needs is for her earlier sexual history paraded over the airwaves -- or for television crews camped on her street.

Maybe she should sue the LA DA for putting her children through abuse.

Oh good grief! The guy had most of his family killed by the nazis in WWII, and then his pregnant wife was murdered by the Manson family. I think that qualifies him to a break on this...

after I wrote my 1st comment, I read most of the comments people have already posted. I am a counselor who has worked extensively with those children who have been raped by a pedophile. It DOESNT MATTER that she was 13, for those of you who seem to think so. IT DOESNT MATTER that it was a long time ago. Don't any of you think about what that girl went through at that time and many years after? I'm hoping you are just ignorant of the psychological damage a child goes through. Are you going to blame a child for being there in the first place? Children trust adults and don't even THINK about what bad might happen. GET A CLUE, AMERICA.

Europeans.....Mr. P. was an alian to United States....with limited citizen rights.... do you think poor black or chicano felons should be forgiven for same crime? If they run to africa or mexico and live in luxury with other 13 yr olds would you be so forgiving.....Rape is rape is rape....child rape is most perverted type of rape.....do laws in US apply evenly or are we demanding entitlements for certain titled persons.....if Mr. P. raped your 13 yr old daughter would you agree that he not answer for his crime 1 or even 100 yrs after the fact? You speak with distorted congnition...where on earth did you attract your logic.....Liberal or not......this is not a political issue. This is not america vs. the world. I believe most of you saying Mr. P should be forgiven and released are talking simply to talk. Are we to forgive all fellons because they could afford to run from justice? Or if fellons are "directors"....or "priests"....or because they may be Your relatives....or because the color of their skin.....tell it to wind! Some of you speak as if your privileged or kin to privileged. The reality i live in dictates,"you do the crime....you do the time!" Our laws don't read, "you do the crime, and your a european-director, you don't have to do the time." Where did you go to find execptions to our laws...where does it read "Mr. P. is a director and should not be held accountable for raping a 13 yr old child. Especially because he ran from the law and for 30 yrs and could not be caught, until now." Dis the Swiss do wrong in arresting and holding a child rapist as some have posted here? You that favor P's release, if you do, should sit aroung your next family dinner and present your position to your daughters, granddaughters, mothers, wives, and other female relatives, and friends...that is if you "truly" hold your conviction that he should not be held accountable. I double dare you to do this! mr. justice

Wow, I can't believe the commenter below is saying this is some sort of abuse. This jerk supposedly raped a 13-year-old girl, and has fled the country for decades because of it. He does deserve the right to a trial, but doesn't the 13-year-old girl deserve the right to confront him?

Maybe we should show a little more concerned for the girl, and a little less concerned because this bone-head knows how to make a movie.

This is a complete waste of time and money. Polanski resolved this decades ago and served the agreed upon time in Chino.

He was evaluated while in Chino, and the psychiatrist who evaluated him determined that Polanski had made a "single error in judgement" and that he was "not a threat to society". He was to be released with some form of probation, and that was the agreement between the prosecutor and defense attorney.

When he learned that the judge intended to abrogate the agreement, he fled, fearing for his life were he to be returned to prison. This fear was entirely realistic on the part of Polanski and is a legitimate explanation for his flight.

I can only hope that France and Switzerland can work something out so that Polanski is not forced to endure what would doubtlessly be a classic trial by pundit, each pontificating more enthusiastically than the other. Let's hope Bill O'Reilly remembers his own sexual harassment case.

Leave the man alone? You have to be joking, please explain he should be left alone? Because he got away for thirty years? Because he makes great films? Do you have a daughter I can babysit?

Good. It is about time he faces up to the crime he has publicly admitted to have committed. Also, to all those spouting off when they don't know the facts of the case, he didn't have "consensual sex" with a 13-year old girl. He drugged her and physically forced her to have sex, as she has publicly stated as an adult in an interview. He used his money and influence to try and get a sweet-heart plea, which he was upset was rejected by the court. So, he fled justice, and when you flee justice, the statute of limitations does NOT apply.

At worst, if he was tried and convicted now, he would receive about a year in a minimum security jail. It seems to me, he should finally just own up to his crime, plead guilty and serve his year in jail (maybe write his memoirs while his there), and then move on with his life. Then, while I would still find his acts despicable, I would at least have a shred of respect for his show of integrity. Unfortunately, I doubt he has enough integrity to do what he should do.

I'm tired of seeing one set of justice for wealthy and influential people like Mr. Polanski, and another for everybody else. He deserves to be prosecuted and treated just like anyone else in his shoes would be.

As for the Swiss, they should be applauded for following international law and honoring the extradition treaty they signed and agreed to adhere by.

Hopefully, justice will be served, and a clear message will be sent that the wealthy and privileged cannot buy a different sort of justice for themselves.

Should we be spending taxpayer money on this? ABSOLUTELY! The same armchair liberals who want to see Catholic Priests locked up for raping 13 year old boys should be just as enthusiastic about seeing Polanski go to prison for raping a 13 year old girl. Wealth and Hollywood eliteism helped him escape justice for over 30 years. He mocked the justice system and now it's time to pay. You think a man who has been through so many tragedies in his life would not want to inflict pain on anyone else..but the truth is he did. Lock his child molesting butt up and throw away the key!!

You can run, but you can not hide. He needs to serve his time in jail - 10 years. France makes me sick. This sick country protect criminals and Nazis.

He is a Paedophile. If he wants to throw out the case because of something in a documentory,Hell Ive seen lots of them,One by mr.al Gore. Wouldnt stand up in a true court of law.
He ran before being sentenced in a court of law. What would happen if you or I did that ??????
Send the child rapist to jail,PLEASE

Fascism, imperialism, corrupt IRS??? and then there is the raping of a 13 year old girl.... I am sure he is innocent, all the innocent powerful people run away. I know if I ever commit a terrible crime, I will run to France until I am dead.

Sorry, I meant to publish that under Patrick Goldstein's piece.

If some one raped my 13 yr old daughter that wouldn't live until trial. Especially not live the high life, make movies and flaunt the law publicly.

How dare the U.S. protect the interests of 13 year old girls over the interests of 76 year old perverts that make critically acclaimed movies! And to all of you that say the US has better things to do than to go after Polanski, I pose this question to you- What makes you think this is going to get in the way of the federal government doing it's MANY other jobs? Also, as far as Swiss neutrality goes, THAT WAS MILITARY NEUTRALITY DURING WWII ! They have and have had for some time, extradition treaties with SEVERAL countries. They ARE NOT a haven for international criminals. If it's too late for you to pay attention in school, at least do a little research before showing your supreme lack of knowledge when posting here.

Polanski brought this upon himself for pleading, then fleeing the country. Sadly, many of the posters that are critical of his arrest are people with clearly no understanding of the law or how the criminal justice system operates.

If you think that what Polanski admitted to doing should be legal, then lobby your legislator to change the law on statutory rape (and when you do that, remember she was 13, he was 31). Otherwise, prosecutors are going to do their job, which is enforce the law as written.

What a silly thing to trust the Swiss authorities! Same thing during the war : those who tried to enter Switzerland from Nazi Germany with a passport stamped "Jude" were regularly sent back to death by the Swiss authorities. Not to mention the money stolen by Swiss banks from escheated accounts.

What a silly thing to trust the Swiss authorities! Same thing during the war : those who tried to enter Switzerland from Nazi Germany with a passport stamped "Jude" were regularly sent back to death by the Swiss authorities. Not to mention the money stolen by Swiss banks from escheated accounts.

I did not write the comment attributed to my name. I am not sure who did. I am not amused.

Is there evidence that has been taken through DNA samples that could determine who the perpetrator was?

Any man who has sex with a child should be castrated with a dull butter knife. I don't care who you are you should never be above the law.

Was evidence collected for DNA samples to prove this case? It seems the victim
does not want to challenge this situation. Is she willing to testify? If not, how can they move forward with this case?

Please do not allow this hype about "poor" Roman Polanski to become the mantra for this man. He is a child rapist and a coward. He should have faced up to his crime years ago. There is no such thing as consensual sex with a 13 year old. I don't care what the adult says now about what happened to her as a child. The nonsense that a district attorney "had it in for him", well he is a rapist period, no further discussion should be necessary. He does not even regret what happened he wants to put it off on losing his wife, the nazis or whomever else he can think of. He should spend the rest of his life in jail. I hope you will speak out for all the children that have been exploited, there should be no exceptions.

Marilyn Miller
19955 Nilsen Lane NW
Poulsbo, WA 98370

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