Roman Polanski: L.A. County district attorney 'surprised and disappointed' by Swiss action
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley told The Times on Monday that he was "genuinely surprised and disappointed" that Swiss authorities decided not to extradite Roman Polanski to the U.S. to face sentencing for having sex with a teenage girl three decades ago.
Cooley, who led the effort to extradite Polanski years after he fled the U.S. to avoid jail time, said he would have more to say on the matter later Monday. It's unclear what legal options L.A. prosecutors now have in their attempt to bring the famed director back to L.A.
"Mr. Polanski is still convicted of serious child sex charges," Cooley said.
The Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police said a flaw in the U.S. extradition request could not be ruled out and that Polanski, who maintains a vacation home in Switzerland, could reliably expect not to be arrested and deported since the U.S. knew of his frequent presence there over the last few years but never acted on it.
Polanski, 76, has already been released from house arrest, the justice department said.
The director has been in Swiss custody since last September, when police in Zurich arrested him on his arrival in the city to accept a lifetime achievement award at a film festival. The arrest was made 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 requested by the Swiss with regard to the case.
Specifically, the Swiss wanted to determine whether the 42 days Polanski already served 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 U.S. officials 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 Switzerland.
-- Richard Winton and Henry Chu
Photos: L.A. Times file