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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)

No rapist should get a free pass. Polanski continues to. Sadly, I'm not surprised given the free pass Cardinal Mahony in LA who facilitated thousands of child sex crimes by clerics walks free today under the Cooley's nose (knows?).

It's one thing for a prosecutor to tout the law and claim to be a crime victim's advocate all the while knowing his/her job is to look after the interest of the state (NOT the victims of the crimes)....that's Betrayal. There's another word used when rich, famous or powerful rapists are brought to account instead of winked at for years by law enforcement worldwide. That's called Justice and protection, NOT corruption. A change every child needs to see and has been once again denied. Thanks to the victims for exposing the crimes.

It's difficult to take Cooley's and prosecutors' reaction as "dumbfounded" as credible in light of their own inactions they claim are caused by legal and/or time technicalities.

This is truly great news. There are plenty of other outrages in the world for the media to spend its time on - Darfur anyone? This is a case from another era best left in the dustbin of time. Polanski served his time according to the plea deal made when the crime took place. And to everyone who asks "What if it as your daughter?", I can tell you as parent to two beautiful girls, I would never have dropped them off at a Hollywood director's house at age 13, especially given Polanski's notoriety at the time. All you self-righteous protectors of youth should stop writing comments on this chat board and get to work preventing the sex crimes going on in your city right this very second! Bravo to the Swiss for calling out America on its Kafka-esque justice system and pointing out its need for serious reform.

i agree. he had a deal. the court shafted him and tried to turn him into a media even. just like a recent DA we could all name. he left. you would have to. As for those innocents who say he could have used the appeals court. YEA RIGHT you have just been SHAFTED by one US court why in the world would you TRUST another. so at that point he assemed the us. court sytem was crooked and operating outside the law and left! good for him. As for the swis well guess what if the two-faced govt we have had for the last 25-30 years would stop lieing to every country in the world agreeing to extradtion and then ripping up the papers they agreed to the sec the individual was on US soil MAYBE the rest of the world would believe them NOW.

Switzerland followed the law. The US did not. Done. Can you pathetic people get on with fixing all the many problems you have. And history? Please! The US has a whole lotta 'splainin' to do practically ALL THE TIME. I'm so glad this American boy lives in Switzerland!

Whaaaaa, why won't anyone think of the children?!

The Swiss followed the law. The US did not. Don't you people think that even though Polanski didn't, the authorities should? Why don't you people spend your time on fixing your own system, plus all the other problems you have?

Another prime example of Los Angeles being out of touch.
Did they not realize that Polanksi is an illegal immigrant?
I am absolutely sure that if they knew that they would grant him amnesty and provide free medical care for him and his family immediately.
How can they be that wrong ALL the time?

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