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Roman Polanski arrest becomes an international incident [Updated]

The arrest of Roman Polanski has become an international incident, with France and Poland demanding that the famed director be released on bail and questioning why he was taken into custody.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office wants Polanski extradited to face charges that he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl 30 years ago.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told France-Inter radio that he and Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski asked Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that Polanski be released on bail, calling his arrest  a "bit sinister."

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand was quoted in French media as saying, "In the same way that there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America that has just shown its face."

Swiss authorities told the Associated Press that bail has not been ruled out, but the director would have to stay in Switzerland.

Robert Harris, a British novelist who had worked with Polanski, said in a statement that he believed the arrest was "politically motivated." "I am shocked that any man of 76, whether distinguished or not, should have been treated in such a fashion," he said.

Polanski's decision to attend the Zurich Film Festival this weekend was a major win for a minor event, but it turned into a bigger coup for Los Angeles County authorities who seized the opportunity to arrange the arrest  of a Hollywood fugitive.

When the Academy Award-winning director of films such as "Chinatown," "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Pianist" arrived at the Zurich, Switzerland, airport Saturday night for a well-publicized appearance, Swiss officials armed with a U.S. arrest warrant took him into custody. The arrest touches off extradition proceedings that could return the filmmaker to the United States to face the child sex case he fled in 1978.

The county district attorney's office, which prosecuted Polanski 32 years ago for the sexual assault and has battled the director in the last year over his attempts to have the controversial case dismissed, initiated the arrest last week when it learned of his travel plans to Zurich.

"It wasn't any secret. It was on the Internet. They were selling tickets to it," said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the office. She said prosecutors prepared a provisional warrant and sent it to U.S. Justice Department officials, who presented it to Swiss authorities.

The arrest stunned Polanski, who has long lived in Paris, where his French citizenship protects him from extradition. His attorneys in the U.S. and France said that despite his fugitive status in the United States, the director routinely travels throughout Europe. He owns a chalet in the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad, and festival organizers said they never considered his U.S. legal problems when recruiting him to headline their event by accepting a lifetime achievement award.

"There were no concerns whatsoever," festival spokeswoman Nikki Parker said.

The length and outcome of Polanski's stay in Switzerland remained uncertain Sunday.

"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 statements by his French attorney suggested there was little chance that Polanski would return without a fight. Herve Temime told the French newspaper Le Figaro that he planned to fly to Switzerland with Polanski's wife, actress Emmanuelle Seigner, to seek the director's release.

[Updated at 7:23 a.m.: Temime told ABC's "Good Morning America" that Polanski would fight extradition. "He wants to struggle, and I think it will be possible for us to maintain his freedom," he said.]

"We are going to argue a defense based on the extradition procedure," he said.

The U.S. Justice Department has 60 days to file a written request for Polanski's transfer to Los Angeles. If Polanski opposes extradition, the Swiss legal process can be lengthy because multiple levels of appeals are available, Ballmer said.

The arrest is the latest twist in a legal saga that has captivated and outraged the public since Jimmy Carter was president. In 1977, Polanski -- a household name both for his movies and for the Manson family murder of his then-wife, Sharon Tate -- was arrested at a Beverly Hills hotel and charged with raping and sodomizing a 13-year-old aspiring model. The girl told police the director had plied her with champagne and a piece of a Quaalude during a photo shoot at actor Jack Nicholson's Mulholland Drive home. He then forced himself on her as she begged him to stop.

Polanski reached a deal with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to a count of unlawful sex with a minor and prosecutors agreed not to pursue rape, sodomy and other charges. A judge ordered Polanski to spend 42 days in state prison for pre-sentencing "diagnostic testing." Polanski served the time and was released. But on the eve of his sentencing in 1978, he boarded a plane for Europe, never to return to the U.S.

The court issued an arrest warrant that has remained in effect since.

From his home in Paris, Polanski settled a civil suit by the victim, Samantha Geimer, for an unspecified amount, and she publicly forgave him. He continued to direct films in Europe and married Seigner, with whom he has two children.

In 1997, Polanski tried to work out a deal with the district attorney's office to return to L.A.: Authorities would arrest him at the airport and bring him straight to court, where he would be sentenced to time served and immediately released.

That deal fell apart, with Polanski's side saying that he objected to television coverage in the courtroom.

For the next decade, Polanski made no public attempts to resolve the case. He won the Academy Award for best director for 2002's "The Pianist," but was not at the ceremony despite Geimer's call for authorities to permit him to attend.

-- Harriet Ryan

Comments () | Archives (145)

Yeah, bail makes perfect sense because we all know he has a great record of complying with bail terms and appearing for court.

As foir questioning why he was arrested, i'm going to guess that raping a 13 year old and being a fugitive from justice might be the reason.

I'm puzzled as to why America is sinister or scary but the admitted child rapist is seen as a victim.

It's also wothy noting that the only reason this happening to him in his 70s is that he has been allwed to evade justice for 30 years.

Some, less charitable types, might suggest that the "sinister" folks are the ones who have provided safe haven to a child rapist-- not to mention the rapist.

Los Angeles has so many more problems than a 76 year old victim of manson's mania. If the victom forgave him and settled, why is LA justice running wild in Europe when the headlines tell anyone who can read we got problems right here?

Now let's watch as la county court people try to find a jury of Polanski peers. how many men of Polanski's talent, directors who have informed the worl dof film and broadened the scope of art, were victimized by the most horrible murderer in history? I know of only one. Polanski.

Since a jury of peers can;t possibly be found, this is another flag waving trick of LA authorities to cover u their real sucking sound: the entire la area.

Kind of ironic that you can't comment on this message board if you are under the age of 13.....but you CAN be sodomized by a scumbag hiding in France.....and they call the arrest sinister?.....Nice morality France

I love Polanski's films, but I think he should just settle this matter once and for all even if it involves a little jail time on his part. For all these years that he has been free he has made a mockery of the U.S. justice system. No crime should be "forgiven" if the criminal somehow is able to avoid his punishment long enough.

I am a fan of this guy's movies. But he was convicted and fled to avoid punishment. Why should he not be treated like everyone else? Age and time are not a factor. Being old and famous should not allow anyone to avoid the law . Look what happened to Madoff! I hope he is returned and punished for doing what he did. Once he has paid his debt to society he will be able to function like any one else. And yes I like his movies !!

It is sad old wounds are reopened with media salt sprinkled in, pain for both side.Arms of law and justice system are long. Socially he may be released but justice system also needs to say so. for that he must face the bench.

looks like the french just proved they are a nation of perverts

Good thing we have the brave Los Angeles D.A.'s attention to matters of international importance in the face of "the war on tare" and all that.

Why, I can hear the creepy-in-his-own-right MSNBC troll Chris Hanson now: "please, take a seat, Roman."

This will surely go down in history as one of the great moments of local jurisprudence, right up there with the "prosecutor's" behavior during the O.J. trial (remember her?) and the mistrial of Phil Spector.

After all, the idiots who run L.A. County don't make the money--they just spend it.

I find it humorous that people defending Polanski point out that his victim "forgives" him now... after she was paid off in a settlement in 2003.

Fact is, he violated US law and fled and needs to be brought to justice. Just because he is famous and an asset to the cultural world, does not give him, nor anyone else, a free pass to bypass the rule of law.

Polanski's offense of morality
Displays a Swiss legal duality:
For him, no escape,
But when bankers rape
Like clockwork, it's time for neutrality.

News Short n' Sweet by JFD8

did he do the crime? If so he needs to pay. I hate all this bs, good thing in USA stars and politicians still go to jail at times

Why now? Polanski owns a house in Switzerland. Sounds like some zealous L.A. prosecutors yet again trying to make a name for themselves. Here is a little tip for you celebrities - move out of California. You all have targets on your backs when in Cali, why have the exposure?

When the victim says everything is OK,
shouldn't everything be OK? Polanski is
a victim of a severely bungled episode
of U. S. justice and needs to be brought
back to the United States in the same
manner as Charlie Chaplin -- with many

Isn't it amazing? After 32 years pursuing Mr. Polanski, the authorities almost have him in their hands.

Yet, the boy geniuses of Wall Street who have raped and pillaged the American people, are given free reign to continue their obscene activities at full bore!

As usual, the USA leads the way!

He needs to go to jail and not given a pass. While escaping and running from doing time, he was aloud to make a living, a very, good living. How many other rapists out there were able to do that. And, he one another Oscar, to boot. I have two very, young daughters and, as a father, I want him in jail. I do think it is great that she forgave him, even if, as Marko says, "she was paid off".

All sorts of people have been coming to Polanski's defense, especially Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post. It reminds me of all the people feeling sorry for pedaphile Michael Jackson.

The fact remains, Polanski has for 30 years been a fugitive from justice; nothing in his life's story justifies his crime, he was found in flagrante delicto with a minor female and deserves punishment. He has never expressed the least bit of remorse for his actions. Good for the Swiss!

Roman Polanski raped a 13 year old girl. He gave her drugs and alcohol first, then he had non-consensual sex. As I read this article, it appears to me that some people aresaying rape is ok if the rapist is a famous Polish director and and his victim is a 13 yearold american girl. You are very seriously sick bunch of people! Hope your Wives, daughters, Mothers are not treated the same way. And yes I am shouting, HE RAPED A 13 YEAR OLD - Aand no SHE DIDNT ASK FOR IT - SICKOS!

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand was quoted in French media as saying, "In the same way that there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America that has just shown its face."

Exactly. Not all Americans like the new scary America. We have the most evil, vindictive legal system on the planet, and you don't have to be guilty of anything to be ruined.

If this was you or me, we would be on the first plane out of Switzerland heading for LA County Jail to be tried for our crimes. If we were a flight risk, bail would be denied. Nobody would be complaining or making any fuss about John Q. Fugitive. Polanski doesn't deserve any special treatment because of his celebrity.

Call these morons and tell them to go after real criminals like John Yoo and Jay Bybee. How about the CEO's of the credit card, banks and insurance companies in Los Angeles that are engaging in criminal activity right now.

District Attorney's Office
County of Los Angeles
210 West Temple Street, Suite 18000
Los Angeles, CA 90012-3210

Telephone (213) 974-3512
Fax (213) 974-1484

TTY (800) 457-7778
(8:30am - 5:00pm M-F)

Pedophilia is evidently acceptable if you can skip out of a country after the fact because your loyal idol worshipers think you have suffered enough.

There is really no harm in giving a 13-year-old qualudes & alcohol and then having your way with her when your pretentious fans feel the justice system shouldn't apply to such a gifted artist.

Defenders, your value system sucks!

What Polanski did in '77 was heinous. He was convicted and perhaps served less time than was necessary for the public to feel that justice was achieved. Imagine if your teenaged daughter were so victimized. One can assume you'd rightly retain the memory of it, so it is reasonable that the state should have a long memory when it comes to crimes that place an individual beyond the pale. Polanski is being reminded that time elapsed and celebrity are no defense.

Whom will it serve however, to have him sentenced, either to further incarceration or to some kind of financial penalty? Will justice be seen to have been achieved at long last or are the state's resources better directed elsewhere? The victim apparently has publicly expressed her desire to have the case dismissed. Moreover Polanski has been subjected to a kind of career exile (he's done alright despite it of course), when he might well have kept his Chinatown burnish as one of Hollywood's most prominent and promising directors, had he been able to work freely in the U.S. I think Polanski might do well to work out a deal akin to the one that fell through; put up with the momentary disapprobation, the negative publicity and the TV cameras and finally put the thing to rest.

Sorry to all who think Polanski is a cultural icon or asset. This isn't a issue of cultural value--he would win that. This is an issue of law. He broke the law and should therefore go through the legal process necessary. Shame on France and Poland for thinking that it is appropriate and correct to harbor a fugitive of the law!

the victim let it go,quit wasting dollars DA of LA

I thought minors had to have a parent present for acting and photo shoots? Where were the girls parents while this was going on?

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