Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

'Embellishing a story sounded like a good idea,' prosecutor says of Roman Polanski case

A retired Los Angeles County prosecutor, who now says he lied on an HBO documentary when he said he advised a judge to sentence Roman Polanski to prison for having sex with a minor, tried to explain his actions this way: “Embellishing a story sounded like a good idea."

“I’m known to the world as a liar. It’s mortifying,” David Wells told The Times. “But it’s my duty [now] to tell the truth.”

The on-camera statements by Wells in “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” were seized upon by Polanski’s defense attorneys, who say in court documents that Superior Court Judge Laurence J. Rittenband and Wells engaged in misconduct by improperly discussing the 1977 case behind closed doors.

Wells, who at the time of the alleged misconduct was not the assigned prosecutor on the case, claimed in the film that he spoke to Rittenband before sentencing and told the judge that Polanski deserved prison time.

He claimed that he suggested a way that the judge could sentence the director to prison by sending him to Chino State Prison for a 90-day “diagnostic testing,” despite a probation officer’s recommendation that Polanski serve no time behind bars. 

“That was not true,” Wells said. “I like to speak of it as an inept statement, but the reality is that it was a lie.”

Wells also said that he was only partly telling the truth when told the documentary maker that he showed the judge a photograph of Polanski with women in Germany at an Oktoberfest event. Rittenband had authorized Polanski to leave the country before his sentencing so that he could work on a movie.

In the documentary, Wells made it appear that he took the photograph into the judge’s chambers and told him that Polanski was “giving you the finger. He’s flipping you off.” But the former prosecutor said Wednesday that he was working in the judge’s courtroom when a local reporter handed him the photograph and asked him to pass it to the judge.

He said he handed the photo to one of the judge’s staff, who gave it in turn to Rittenband, who reacted angrily.

“He said, ‘This guy is going to state prison!’ And I said, ‘He’s thumbing his nose at you, your honor.’

"And that’s the only thing I said to him,” Wells said. “I never discussed this case with Judge Rittenband either on the record or off the record or in any other way.” Wells said he deeply regretted lying on the film.

Wells, 71, said that he made up the story, believing that the documentary would never been shown in the United States. The film was broadcast on HBO.

He said he decided to make the announcement public after the weekend arrest of Polanski, who fled the U.S. on the eve of sentencing after pleading guilty to sexual intercourse with a minor.

“Why am I owning up to it now? If Polanski does come back, that’s going to be an issue as to whether he can withdraw the plea,” Wells said.

Wells' statements in the HBO documentary make up a portion but far from all of the misconduct allegations Polanski's attorneys leveled at Rittenband for his handling of the original case. His attorneys cited interviews in the documentary in their unsuccessful effort to dismiss the case.

--Jack Leonard

More breaking news on L.A. Now:

L.A.'s drive to control medical marijuana moving slowly

Federal suit filed to block massive cuts to in-home supportive services

AP: Michael Jackson's arms covered with punctures, autopsy shows

Families camp out overnight on skid row for school clothes giveaway

Morning Scoop: Selling pot, support for Polanski, will Great Park be great?

Comments () | Archives (42)

I think the first thing Polanski's defense attorneys will ask Wells would be, "You say you lied then, so why should we believe you now? You even admit you're 'known to the world as a liar,' so why should anyone believe anything you say? Maybe you're lying now. How can anyone tell?"

I knew, from the benginning that there was some smoking gun and I think now is Eureka. Those judicial hypocrytes that came to the defense of a not so innocent "starlet" are pall bearers to their own cruzades for their own selfish interests, but justice, never. There are too many contradictions to this story. to be believable. A girl alone with a man, in a mansion, with drugs and no other people present and with so many young girls, teenagers in NYC, L.A., et al, that sell their bodies for crumbs and nobody shows a tad of outrage for their plight, but here comes a rich guy, movie director to super size that and you have the perfect storm, AKA "orgy". As far as I know, Californians took the word "orgy" to new heights, ergo, to those super hypocrites that wanted to burn Polanski without knowing all the facts, they sound as "righteous" as a three dollar bill. For those who never stopped throwing stones, even though they are, were worse than Polanski, get a life!

As if a retired prosecutor would be stupid enough to allow himself to go on record (on camera, actually) making those claims if they weren't true, regardless of where this movie would be broadcast. It's too late to retract your statements, Mr Wells.

let polanski withdraw his plea and try him for the original charges. the victim's grand jury testimony alone will convict him. the original plea deal was a slap on the wrist and a slap in the face to everyone who cant afford hollywood justice.

Polanski an admitted pedophile being portrayed as victim while those around the case are villified. YOU PEOPLE ARE SICK!!!

Polanski should burn.

It was inconceivable from the beginning that Deputy District Attorney David Wells (No relation) and Judge Rittenband would jeapordixe their careers by violating the canons against ex parte communications regarding pending cases. It was an obvious lie from the start,

It is unfortunate that Polanski gave a 13 year old Alcohol and Drugs and RAPED her. Remember that, and then he fled the country and has been eluding authorities for 30 years.

Who cares what the Layers say, I think he needs to go before the court and face sentencing. Just as you or I or a Catholic Priest would have to do.

Well, at least we now have an admission that members of the prosecutors office lied about the case. "Oh, we only lied when we talked with a camera and microphone on us. In PRIVATE we only told the truth. I swear." You gotta love Steve Cooley. He is working hard to continue to make the LA DA's office the laughing-stock of the nation.

I agree about the liar lawyer. Why believe an admitted liar? Aren't all lawyers liars anyways? Professional liars.
Best thing for Roman to do is the waive the extradition and come back for sentencing. Man up and get some respect.
Otherwise he is going to be sitting in jail over there during the appeals process which could take 6 months or more with the result that they send him back here anyway. That would be much more time than the people at the Chino Diagnostic prison recommended in the first place right?
If he comes back here then doesn't the new judge have to go by what the original stuff states? Time served- no further time. His lawyers can also trot the victim out to give her statements about what she wants.
Isn't that his best bet? To just come back?

Any prosecuotr who lies is breaking lawyer ethics rules.
He should be disbarred immediately.

And, thrown in jail w/ Polanski

The whole fiasco makes me nauseous from the 43 year old pervert, Polanski, to the judge, Rittenband, and the retired prosecutor, Wells. This creep will probably go free, never being punished for raping and sodomizing a 13 year old girl who worked for him. And her mother, must I say anything about a mother that would drop her daughter off at a house to be photographed unsupervised at 13? Not one of these educated, "creative" people ever had a concern about the girl. Hell is too good for all of them!

Polanski should be denied entry to the USA forever, if the charges are dropped.

Wells is obviously lying. He just doesn't want to be blamed if Polanski comes back and is released because of the inappropriate conversations he had with Judge Rittenband before the plea bargain fell apart. Wells was a moron then, and he's still a moron today.

To Thomas Beck:

Because you are not under oath when a bunch of nosy filmmakers come and stick a camera and a microphone in your face. There is a difference between lying to your spouse or your children or your parents and lying in court.

Wells was telling the truth in the video - he had lots of detail, it was convincing. BUT at the time he never thought Polanski would return to face the music, and this was Well's 15 minutes of fame. The stuff about he never thought it would be shown outside of France is nonsense; this is HBO, an American company which could have been expected to broadcast it in the U.S.

What happened was that NOW that Polanski may be returned and his own role will become part of the case history, and could cause a mistrial, based on judicial and prosecutorial misconduct, he doesn't want to be responsible for that and blemish his career. No doubt he's persona non grata to the DA's office which may have dropped hints that it would be helpful if Wells changed his tune. So now, he sounds like a loony tunes and at best, a liar. His original testimony adds up.

Wells' improper behavior wasn't the ONLY such incident, however, so he can take some solace in knowing he won't be the sole cause of Polanski's lawyers claiming reneging of plea bargains and improper behavior.

It is one thing to lie in a documentary and another to lie under oath. If called to testify under oath, previous embellishments for a documentary are of minor consequence. Bottom line, Polanski drugged and raped a 13 year old girl and then skipped town to avoid sentencing after pleading guilty. I don't care if it is a week or 30 years, he deserves to be punished.

Why would it matter if the documentary was only shown overseas? Isn't lying, lying no matter who sees it?

Let me get this straight - Whoopi, Winger, Gilbert and plenty of other "Hollywood Elite" are soft on Polanski for raping a 13 year old, BUT stand against the rape of grown women in Somalia. Sick is Sick, this type of behavior is not something one just decides to quit. Convicted child molestors, having served time, are driven out of their homes because EVERYONE (except the Hollywood Elite) knows Sick is Sick -- Polanski is sick. And, he jumped bail, deal off. I cannot think of a better place to spend taxpayers dollars than to go after anyone that would do this - ESPECIALLY to a Child.

Of course Wells is changing his story now, if he doesn't he is guilty of ex-parte communication which could very likely get him disbarred or worse. Either way he is disreputable at least.

There is a bravado among the mountain police that 'we always get our man'. Hearing this case come up after so many years still makes the outsider wonder what is its underlying (under lying) logic. In any case we are convinced that the prosecutor, and not only he, has been parading Polanski, and that whatever the lies, objectivity is tainted, and Polanski may have been kidnapped by a film, but has lived in exile for nothing. And now in giving asylum to the refugee, the U.S. wants him straight in its prison. Instead of acting on behalf of the law, one has assumed the role of actor in a Polanski movie, in his likeness. 1977 was a legendary year, just as 1988.

Here is what a good guy Roman Polanski is not. Two days after Sharon Tate and my friend Jay Sebring were murdered, he called my friend Wendy and came over to "see" her. I was there. He had been "seeing" her for a some time. Her home was on Franklin Canyon Drive off of Coldwater Canyon.

Dianne Boyd

Sounds like every case ever touched by this guy is now suspect. What a mess!

I would expect him to be disbarred very soon also, as he has certainly violated the requirement not to bring dishonor and disrespect to the profession.

Bottom line:

Polanski raped a 13 year old. He admitted it. He then fled the country.

Put him UNDER the jail. Case closed. Story over.

it really doesn't matter anymore what happened then between prosecutor and judge. he's going to have a different prosecutor and judge now. roman is still guilty of raping a 13 year old girl and needs to pay for it. nothing changes that fact. he is still not above the law for any reason.

like what's her name said on the view, we prosecute 75 year old nazis too. it doesn't matter how much time has gone by.

and the victim asking for roman's leniency is not a factor to be considered at all. women ask for the charges to be dropped against their abusive husband's all the time. kidnap victims frequently begin to empathize with their kidnappers. the same goes for her. roman should not escape justice because of her mental illness.

Polanski's lawyers, and apparently the man himself, had no qualms about playing the Jew card. Polanski, like many European immigrants of his generation, is a survivor of the Holocaust. Apparently a year in hell absolves one of later devilish behavior. Too bad nobody explained this to Khmer Rouge survivor and Oscar winner, Haing Ngor, so he could run out and rob some banks or liquor stores before his murder in 1996.

Of course, everything surrounding the Polanski case is yesterday's news. Even the rape victim, Samantha Geimer, now a woman my age, wants the whole thing to go away. (She's been paid shut-up money and so has her mother).

There's been a lot of talk about preferential treatment of celebrities like Polanski. But what about preferential treatment because of race and the class status incurred by fame, not just celebrity?

Imagine if Polanski were an African immigrant from Rwanda, a Tutsi man who survived the genocide of 1994. Now imagine this African rising to some prominence for his inventive, yet mainstream films in Hollywood. Now imagine this black filmmaker one night lounging in the hot tub of his mansion overlooking Sunset Blvd. Imagine this black filmmaker drugging and sodomizing a 13-year-old child. Now imagine the child is a boy.

Still want to dismiss Polanski's criminal charges?

1 2 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Please send to newstips@latimes.com
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: