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Retired prosecutor says he lied about Polanski case

September 30, 2009 |  2:45 pm

A retired Los Angeles County prosecutor who claimed in a 2008 documentary that he advised a judge to sentence Roman Polanski to prison for having sex with a minor now says that he lied on film about his role in the case.

The on-camera statements by David 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 told The Times today during a brief interview. “I like to speak of it as an inept statement, but the reality is that it was a lie.”

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.

In January, Wells told The Times that he regretted making the statements but never said they were untrue. Rittenband died in 1993. Wells said today that he notified the district attorney’s office several months ago that he had lied during the film and apologized for his actions.

He said he decided to make the announcement public after the weekend arrest of Polanski, who fled Los Angeles 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' comments were first reported by The Daily Beast.

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

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