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Roman Polanski's attorneys stunned by arrest

September 27, 2009 |  3:35 pm

Director Roman Polanski and his attorneys were stunned by his arrest in Switzerland on Saturday on a child sex charge filed decades ago in Los Angeles, according a French newspaper report.

“We absolutely were not expecting such an arrest, in so far as he regularly goes to Switzerland, and he’s done so for several years,” lawyer Herve Temime told Le Figaro, adding that Polanski “even owns a chalet situated in the Gstaad," a Swiss ski village.

Polanski was arrested 31 years ago at a Beverly Hills hotel after a 13-year-old girl accused him of sexually assaulting her during a photo shoot at actor Jack Nicholson's house.

A 1978 arrest warrant, issued after he failed to appear at his sentencing on a statutory rape conviction, is still in effect, and he would be taken into custody upon arrival on U.S. soil. The director of "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby" has not returned to the U.S. since then but continues to work as a director, winning an Oscar for "The Pianist."

Temime told Le Figaro, “At no time, up until today, has he been under an investigation by the Swiss justice [system].  Generally speaking, Roman Polanski never stopped traveling all over the world despite the existence of an American arrest warrant.”

The lawyer said that Polanski was able to inform his wife of the arrest, and that “his wife and his children were very shocked ... ; however, they remain supportive and confident.”

Temime said he would be flying to Zurich, Switzerland, tonight with Polanski’s wife to meet with Polanski’s Swiss lawyer, and plead for his release.

“We are going to argue a defense based on the extradition procedure,” he explained. 

Temime said there is “a problem” with the extradition order because “the supposed victim withdrew [her claim] many years ago.”

“Humanely, it seems to me unbearable that 30 years after the events, a 76-year-old man, who obviously presents no danger to society, and whose reputation on the artistic and personal level is clearly established, can be subjected to a single day in jail,” the lawyer said.

In a statement, the director's three Los Angeles attorneys, Douglas Dalton, Chad Hummel and Bart Dalton, who are representing him an ongoing attempt to have the case against him dismissed on the grounds of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct, said, “We were unaware of any extradition being sought, and separate counsel will be retained for those proceedings."

Their request to have the 1977 charges against Polanski dismissed is pending before the state Court of Appeal.

-- Harriet Ryan in Los Angeles and Devorah Lauter in Paris, who translated the Le Figaro news report