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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)

Carlson: Judge Laurence Ritterbrand did NOT renege on a plea bargain that he had made with Polanski. What Judge Rittenband DID do these thirty-odd (VERY odd) years ago was to let it be known that he was NOT going to "rubber stamp" the over-the-top "sweetheart deal" that Polanski's lawyers had worked out with Hollywood-rapt L. A. Deputy D. A. Roger Gunson: 42 days (of psych evaluation) "time served" for statutory rape plead down from SIX felonies, including the Champagne-and-Quaalude-fueled and arguably FORCIBLE oral copulation (by him of her), rape and sodomy of a 13-year-old girl by a 44-year-old man, which could have put Polanski away for more than 50 years.

And was it in PRISON that Judge Ritterband proposed to incarcerate Polanski for a maximum of two years? NO—it was in a "country club" psych clinic so as to spare Polanski the mandatory deportation and lifelong exclusion from the United States which would have followed more than a year's incarceration in a penal institution!

And if you retain any doubts regarding the heinousness of Polanski's crimes, I refer you to the transcript of his victim's L. A. County Grand Jury testimony—made within two weeks of Polanski's crimes—preserved at


et seq.

Wow, I didn't think that child molestation was okay. After reading some of the comments regarding poor misunderstood, persecuted Roman Polandski, I've come to the conclusion that the law is different for Hollywood Celebrities when compared to citizens who raise their families. The LAW DOES NOT APPLY TO HOLLYWOOD CELEBRITIES while citizens GO TO JAIL if they break the law.

The people that are whining about "our" money...might not feel the same if it was their 13 year old daughter, no matter how many years have past.... and as far as the parents being bought..that is the worse...they should be prosecuted for putting a price on raping their daughter.... I have a daughter, and there is no amount of money that can justify laying a hand on her....

So as far as our money is concerned... I guess anything that is too costly or requires effort should just be over looked especially with regards to the rich and famous....is that what we are saying??? I'm sure many child molesters would love to jump on that bandwagon! I guess justice isn't blind... just submit you resume/filmography and you might get away with it...right? Actually, it is not justice...it society asking her to do this. Shame on us!

Bill James is an effing IDIOT. America's sense of justice? hahah is this idiot serious? Does he not realize that Amelia McDonnell-Parry of "The Frisky", a CNN-approved website, is advocating the RAPE OF MINORS and yet no one will lift a finger to do anything about it. And now suddenly we are concerned with a 70 year old guy in France? are you out of your mind you EFFING IDIOT?? CA is already in a budget crisis. And now we're going after an old man when there are real criminals out there that need to be caught. Get a grip!

" If the victim does not want Polanski prosecuted, who are you to drag her through more of this?"

"Since his victim is no longer sueing him, he should be discharged and released."

"When the victim says everything is OK,shouldn't everything be OK?"

"The victim apparently has publicly expressed her desire to have the case dismissed."

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

Exactly my thought. If a child is molested, make sure to make the molestation so horrific that they won't want to relive it through a trial.

If you can succeed in this action; you should get away without punishment.

That was your points, right? That children are getting far too easy and simple molestations and that these child molestation acts need to be considerably more horrific and traumatic in order to be acceptable?

If you had a different point, you might not want to start with an argument that recommends to potential criminals that the more horrific and traumatic they make the molesting of a child; the more likely they are to get away with it...

"Enough...The girl was paid money...she took the money and moved on."

Wait, so I should be allowed to legally buy child sex slaves? Since I paid them it should be ok? Well that seems like a weird sense of justice.

Is this the plan? To legalize severe and traumatic child molestation and child sex slavery in the US? Do I have to make a movie first to get in on this deal, or is this open for anyone who wants to buy and rape a child?

Ian and Sensible - "He was INCARCERATED for 40 days evaluation. The DA agreed to a PLEA BARGAIN, then RENEGED"

Ok so some star crossed psychiatrist gave him a pass, along with the DA. The Judge is the one who rules in the court room. If I was the Judge and saw this case - a drugged 13 year old sodomized who said no repeatedly, I would not think 40 days was sufficient penalty in any way. Are you two retarded?

It is very nice that both Roman and Samantha have grown past the incident. However, the civil suit is just that a civil matter the incident/activity was criminal and statutory rape is still illegal. I like Mr. Polanski work but we must separate the artist from the man and realize that a law was broken. If the authorities refuse to bring him to trial and refuse to prosecute, what precedence will be set and what will they be saying to predators and victims? What do the attorneys thing? I also find Hollywood's response somewhat distaste full.

It is very nice that both Roman and Samantha have grown past the incident. However, the civil suit is just that a civil matter the incident/activity was criminal and statutory rape is still illegal. I like Mr. Polanski work but we must separate the artist from the man and realize that a law was broken. If the authorities refuse to bring him to trial and refuse to prosecute, what precedence will be set and what will they be saying to predators and victims? What do the attorneys thing? I also find Hollywood's response somewhat distaste full.

Raping a 13-year old is disgusting - and illegal. People have made laws against it - for good reasons.
Now and then.
To assume that hiding forever will make it a non-crime - not so.
It is.
We punish crimes with jail- here in Europe as well. Measured jail, according to statutes.
Time to go.

let's face it people, this girl seduced Roman. we have bigger fish to fry, it is time to get out the support of President Obama.....Yes We Can

If california lets Polanski off on the charge then thay should let everyone in prison for raping 13-year-old-girls out of prison. what makes Polanski so special, he made good movies and they didn't?

we are one of few countries in this world, that think that 13 or 14 yr old girls are minors. as hard as this is to beleive, most european countries think they are adults and very capable of having sex with anyone they choose. we are a very conservative society, we like to call everyone a pedophile nowadays, but we are in the minority in the world when it comes to this subject.

I am both shocked and very sad at how low this country's morals have seem to sink. How can anyone think that this monster has already paid for his admitted crime. Hello! the girl was only thirteen years old. I cannot believe that anyone in his or her right mind would support such an individual as Mr. Polanski.

"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"

- a not very convincing story... in all her interviews the "victim" says she loved the champagne, the topless photos, the pool ... but then, suddenly, was a little afraid of Polanski...

Too much money involved in this case...

So what does the Los Angeles County district attorney's office want? Polanski extradited to face charges that he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl (no longer a child ... ) 30 years ago? Is this a joke? Or justice?

People are defending him? He is a pedophile who fled during his trial? What makes him any different? Everyone has an excuse! Treat him the same way any common person would be treated. Remember, justice is blind?!?! Pedophiles are not suppose to be cured. He has more than likely assaulted other young girls. Thoughs that are behind him need a reality check. This case will definitely set a prerequisite for future offenders... just flee to another country and wait a while. You'll have done your time by not being allowed back to the U.S. and not being able to make films in Hollywood. Give me a break!

In fact, in France, rape is forbidden and prosecuted too. This is the theoretical part. Now, for the practical part, we could say that the money rules. I won't say that my country is a particular case in this kind of sport, but.. as the times are a bit difficult...
You can be sure of one thing : a poor citizen (french, american, arabic etc.) won't make our dear ministers's mouths generate such a kind of speech. At the same time (same week) they're talking about chemical castration for this kind of crime (about another tragic case). so you see.. this is a bit schizophrenic. As usual.
Well, i think the french ministers delivered a world wide significant message : for some money, we will do anything for you. We'll clean you again and again. That's probably part of the Economic Recovery Plan. . Just kidding.

He should get the same treatment as everybody else...no special consideration should be given to him...I loved the Pianist, Chinatown and Rosemeries( spell check, I suck with names.) baby, but the perv stuck his meat stick into a 13 year old girl...he has to face up to that, like anybody else.

Roman Polanski willingly and knowingly drugged and raped an 13 year old child against her will. There was testamony that the child said NO several times during this act, but was still subject to this act several times. This is a cowardly act on the part of Mr. Polanski...the act of a coward. It only seems fitting that this act would be santioned by the same culture, and country who has no problem with cowardly acts...I'm talking about you France, who has a history of cowardly acts. This explains alot about your prize citizen...Go To Hell France!!!

I really feel that he only had to serve only 45 more days in custody, and this entire incident would have been over with, but he decided to run. I'm sorry, but he made his bed and now must sleep in it alone. Now that he is in jail waiting to see if he will receive bail, how can you truly trust him not to run again. He would be gone so fast, the wind couldn't catch him. I know he is quite famous, but I would never grant bail to a person who fled the country for over 31 years. He was stupid for pressing his luck all this time, and now, he is gonna do more jail time due to his escaping justice in America. I do not feel sorry for him at all.....

"While I certainly don't condone Mr. Polanski's behavior, why now? We can't even afford to keep the courthouses operating fulltime anymore. How much is this going to cost the State of California? I'm sure there are bigger fish to catch and prosecute in local waters. Whose great idea was this?"

in some counties all over ca they apparently have all the time in the world as they constantly do trials in yolo county it appears and even gave an indian guy for a 2 year affair with a 15 yr old a 400 yr sentence recently. Rad up ajay dev, oh yea and there was no a single shred of irrefutable evidence like dna presented but only the girl as witness who already had forgery charges in her country she came from. In Glenn county they have many free cells sitting with not much to do for cops and prosecutors as well.

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