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Did Roman Polanski serve enough time? Sentencing statistics add to debate

July 12, 2010 |  8:23 am

Did Roman Polanski serve enough time?

Swiss authorities announced Monday that they had rejected the Los Angeles County District attorney's office's request to have the famed director extradited to the U.S. to face sentencing for having sex with a teenage girl in the 1970s. 

L.A. prosecutors declined to immediately comment. 

The Times sought to examine whether Polanski's time behind bars was unusual. 

A computer analysis of court records found that statutory rape convictions in cases similar to Polanski's typically result in sentences at least four times longer today than the 90-day punishment a judge favored before the director fled the United States in 1978. Polanski ended up spending 42 days behind bars in L.A. before fleeing the country, claiming the judge was mistreating him.

The Times analyzed sentencing data to determine how L.A. County courts today handle cases in which men admit to statutory rape -- also known as unlawful sex with a minor -- in exchange for the dismissal of more serious rape charges, as Polanski did. The findings show that those defendants get more time than Polanski has served -- even factoring in his 70-day stint in Swiss detention -- but less than his critics may expect.

The 2009 analysis by Times reporters Jack Leonard, Harriet Ryan and Doug Smith also found that:

Since 2004, there have been 50 cases in L.A. County that mirror the procedural contours of Polanski's. In 72% of those cases, the defendant got a sentence of a year or more.

Although comparable statistics are not available for the 1970s, figures cited at the time by Polanski's attorney indicate that no one convicted of unlawful sex with a minor then went to prison and more than a quarter of defendants didn't see any time behind bars at all.

Polanski has been in custody -- either in jail or under house arrest -- in Switzerland since September.

-- Shelby Grad

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