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Roman Polanski freeing meets with outrage from prosecutors, U.S. State Department [Updated]

The Swiss government’s decision Monday to free Roman Polanski met with outrage from L.A. County prosecutors and the U.S. State Department.

Polanski will not be extradited to the United States to face sentencing for having sex with a girl -- the ultimate charge in the case after a plea deal – allowing him to roam freely in Switzerland and France, where he has lived since he fled the United States before his sentencing 32 years ago.

Local and federal officials vowed to continue the pursuit of Polanski, though their options are now significantly limited.

“A 13-year-old girl was drugged and raped,” said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley. “This is not a matter of technicality. To push this case aside based on technicalities we think is regrettable …. We think it sends a very important message regarding how ... women and girls are treated around the world."

Laura Sweeney, a spokeswoman at the Department of Justice, which helps process extradition requests, said federal prosecutors are "very disappointed in the decision by the Swiss government."

"Whenever the United States seeks an individual's extradition, we do so on the basis that our request is supported by the facts and the terms of our treaty,’’ she said. "That is true in this case as well. We believe the extradition request submitted by the United States was fully supported by the evidence, met the requirements of the extradition treaty and involved a serious offense.’’

L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who led the effort to bring Polanski back to the U.S., said he was dumbfounded. "Mr. Polanski is still convicted of serious child sex charges," Cooley said.

[Updated at 3:18 p.m.: In a statement, Cooley added: “I am deeply disappointed that the Swiss authorities denied the request to extradite Roman Polanski. Our office complied fully with all of the factual and legal requirements of the extradition treaty and requests by the U.S. and Swiss Departments of Justice and State.

“We will discuss with the Department of Justice the extradition of Roman Polanski if he’s arrested in a cooperative jurisdiction,” the district attorney added.]

The Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police said the U.S. had failed to turn over certain documents requested by the Swiss.

The Swiss government's announcement was a dramatic development in a case that has lasted more than 30 years. In 1978, Polanski fled the U.S. hours before he was to be sentenced for having unlawful sex with a minor.

He has not set foot in the U.S. since. Born in France, Polanski is a French citizen.

The director has been in Swiss custody since September of last year, when police in Zurich arrested him on his arrival in the city to accept a lifetime achievement award at the local film festival. The arrest was performed at the request of authorities in Los Angeles.

The U.S. lodged a formal extradition request at the end of October. Legal experts said that by law, Swiss justice officials were obliged to rule on the request only on technical and administrative grounds, examining it to see that all proper procedures were followed, rather than on the actual merits of the case against Polanski. In its decision Monday, the Swiss Justice Department said it could not exclude the possibility that the extradition request was "undermined by a serious fault" because the U.S. had failed to turn over certain documents.

Specifically, the Swiss wanted to determine whether the 42 days Polanski had already spent in a Los Angeles jail would have been considered sufficient time served for having sex with a minor.

Also, Swiss authorities said that until 2009, the U.S. had not filed any extradition request against Polanski "for years," even though it knew he had bought a house in Switzerland in 2006 and was a regular visitor there. That gave the director a reasonable expectation that he was not under threat of arrest and deportation from there.

"Roman Polanski would not have decided to go to the film festival in Zürich in September 2009 if he had not trusted that the journey would not entail any legal disadvantages for him," the Swiss justice department said.

-- Henry Chu in London and Paul Richter in Washington

Comments () | Archives (82)

The Swiss got it right. The Americans are wrong. This is not to excuse Mr. Polanski's behavior. But we have a system of laws and an expectation of prosecutorial ethics that are the only things that give our system of justice credibility. Clearly those ethics were violated. This is an outcome that the LA County DA brought on itself and it began in 1978.

what swine.... wonder how that Swiss judge would have reacted if it was her daughter or relative that was sadistically raped... bribery

WHY didn't they comply with the request for documents? I'm dumbfounded that Cooley's office couldn't get it right. Or chose not to provide the transcripts for other reasons that they'd rather not elaborate on.

To say that the decision not to extradite sends a message to women is ridiculous at best. Maybe it should send a message to prosecutors that they need to do a better job of prosecuting their cases in the first place.

What Polanski did was illegal and disgusting. But the original DA's office screwed up, and now Cooley has followed in their footsteps.

Hey Cooley, I voted for Proposition 215, and you're still going after medical marijuana users. I'm dumbfounded that you are that cold and heartless towards millions of people suffering today. But no, you'd prefer to chase a 77 year old rapist with no victim to be seen anywhere. Wise up, Pal.

This is very good news. What the US doesn't seem to understand is that technicalities are important as they prevent politics to subvert justice. In this case, the US presumably was unable to provide for the requested details, because the plan was to put Polanski behind bars for a long time. But the US could not be open about that, as that would undermine their extradition request. The public attitude toward sex crimes has changed a lot, especially when minors are involved. But you should not re-try old cases based on that.

Maybe the authorities shouldn't have screwed this up so royally! Seriously, if we believe in rule of law or even victims' rights, the judicial impropriety on display in this case is appalling.

Yes, the crime he was accused of was terribly serious. But given the actual conviction (a FAR lesser crime) and the mess the late judge made of this, he deserves to be free now.

Apparently, 42 days in jail is enough if you rape a kid in Switzerland. I guess being "neutral" about literally everything has its downsides.

Somebody tell Steve Cooley that it is ridiculous to be pursuing this guy after all these years.
He already served 45 days in jail, the original DA reneged on a deal that was made with him, he is banned from stepping foot on US soil and already has been held in Switzerland under house arrest for 7 months! The case is 30 years old! Come on now! Lets stop spending money on this BS witch hunt!
Our state is 19 billion dollars in debt and overflowing with illegal immigrants breaking our laws so not a penny more should be spent on a 30 years old already solved case about some wild Hollywood partying! Who is electing these knuckleheads that set these types of priorities?

David, that is why there is an appellate court system IN THIS COUNTRY where Polanski could have sought relief. Instead he ran away and now uses another Court system where he has political pull to once again get away with a crime he plead guilty to. It is certainly possible that the DA in the case acted wrongfully, but that is not for the Swiss to decide.

Switzerland, the land of rapists and pedophiles. The citizens of Switzerland should hold this day as a day of shame because this rapist, this pedophile committed this crime, he left the US because he felt that he was going to jail, he had the means to escape and he did so, now the citizens of Switzerland need to remember that since this animal has done this here, just what makes them think for a moment that he is not doing the same thing to their children. It appears that the Swiss are not as intelligent as I gave them credit for. What a shame for your country to be associated as the land of the rapists and pedophiles!

Poor Steve Cooley. He was going to ride to victory in the November election, and now a Swiss court has shown some reality.

The US were not able to provide exact details about the proceedings if Polanski would have been released to the LA jusdicial system. The Swiss authorities allowed the US to act in time but many months passed and the US did not respond. Another perfect example of how the US are organized. Switzerland has the most perfect judicial system in the world jalously admired by many countries. Roman Polanski had been in housearrest in Gstaad for many months and the Swiss authorities desperatly waited for LA to proceed in this case. In the absence of clear instructions from the US, Bern did the right thing and the US Embassador in Bern, under the instructions from Washington, warmly supported the release of Roman Polanski today. Roman had been domiciled in Switzerland and France for many years and never faced deliquency. Well done Switzerland!

David, he was found guilty, he took off, what part of this is it that you do not understand? When I was a very young boy, my best friend was murdered, raped, and knifed to death and thrown from a 10 story building in NYC, something I will NEVER forget, do you think that this person should have gotten away with it, do you think that if this animal would have been captured and found guilty, that if he got to another country that he should not have been sent back??? I guess if it was your daughter or your sister that this animal would have raped, I guess you would see things very differently and the only reason he is getting away with this is because of his connections and his money, it doesn't have anything to do with the law, if it was you there in his shoes, brother you would have been sitting in a US jail a long time ago.

Leave to the Eurotrash socialists to throw basic laws of decency and morality out the window when someone identified as a high profile cultural leftwing liberal "artiste" is convicted of a felony.

I guess they will protect "one of their own" when the rapist's politics are embraced.

Typical example of selective justice based on a thoroughly bankrupt political and judicial system of governance.

Please don't let our country ever sink to such depths of depravity.

Hmm makes one wonder if the correct paperwork was conveniently not received seeing as how ALL the paperwork was sent per the extradition treaty.

I think someone took a bribe in Switzerland.

David has it correct. The Swiss authorities were required by law to make sure the the technical aspects were correct and not to make a decision based upon the merits of the case. It's good to see that Switzerland is still a country of laws and objectivity, unlike the U.S., who circumvents the law depending on the opinion of the day. And Cooley should not waste his time with a 32 year old case that even the victim doesn't want pursued. I just a bunch of illegal immigrants the other day hanging around the Best Buy at Sawtelle and Pico. I guess we ignore them breaking the law because it's not politically correct. As I said, the opinion of the day.

He's a child rapist... Defend him all you want... But he raped a child... After he drugged her. He RAPED A CHILD... Anyone?!?!?

that swiss cheese judge has holee cheese for a brain !

What a hypocrisy by Swiss authorities. If this Polanski guy happened to be of an Arabic or for that matter, of any other ethnicity, there would have been such a hue and cry about this release. But just because he is Jewish, powerful lobbying ensures that this outrageous decision receives no attention and the issue quietly dissipates.

The Swiss got it wrong! Maybe Americans should boycott visiting this country until they honor our laws!

Woman judge? I doubt it.

This is a serious miscarriage of justice. Money buys anything and everything.

what about Interpol? or a Black Ops extradition? Don't they really exist?

GoBears58, do you have evidence of bribery being used to influence the Swiss judge or are you just a reactionary moron? Just curious.

Henry, Get your facts straight. Polanski DID set foot on United States soil a very few years back when he attended a gala event held at the the U.S. Embassy in Paris. No one lifted a finger then, even though he could have been immediately taken into U.S. custody because he was technically on oU.S. soil. Why? For the same reason that he skated on this inchoate attempt to bring him to book: he simply has too much political juice in the european performing arts community, and it was only a matter of time before the right official was "influenced" enough to let him go. I bet the FBI legats at he Paris Embassy were fuming over Little Roman waltzing in - and then out - right under there noses. But it's always unnamed "higher-ups" who call the shots in cases like these. After thirty years of criminal practice, I state what I stated before in this case: there is a special set of rules for those in the rarified heights of power, and another set of rules for folks like you and I. Disgusting.

These kooks need to get a grip and come back down to earth. The so called victim does not share any of the feelings these kooks do. As a matter of fact she said that she did not wish to pursue anything related to this case. These cops are wasting taxpayer time and money and need to see a head doctor to find out why they are acting like they were victims themselves. Then they need to be arrested for trying to incite mass hysteria by painting this thing as something it is not. The girl got over it, whats the matter with you?

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