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Victim in Roman Polanski rape case expected to take new legal step on his behalf

January 21, 2010 |  9:48 am

Polanski In the 33 years since she accused Roman Polanski of rape, Samantha Geimer has publicly forgiven the acclaimed director, accused the American justice system of mistreating him and urged a dismissal of his still pending criminal case.

On Friday, Geimer is expected to take yet another step on Polanski’s behalf – asking that a Los Angeles court force U.S. authorities to abandon their ongoing attempt to extradite the filmmaker from Switzerland.

In papers served on Polanski’s lawyers Wednesday and expected to be filed in Superior Court this morning, Geimer’s lawyer contends that the L.A. County district attorney’s office violated the state's victims rights statute by not consulting with her prior to making the extradition request.

Now a married mother living in Hawaii, Geimer was 13 when she told authorities Polanski raped and sodomized her during a photo shoot at Jack Nicholson’s house.

Geimer's attorney, Lawrence Silver, wrote that at a Friday hearing he planned to cite Marsy’s Law – a 2008 statute passed by ballot initiative – that specifically guarantees crime victims a number of rights, including the right “to reasonable notice of and to reasonably confer with the prosecuting agency, upon request, regarding ... the determination whether to extradite the defendant.”

The attorney wrote that in a July letter to the deputy district attorney handling the case, he made clear that Geimer wanted to meet with prosecutors and planned to “exercise every right that she may have under the Victim’s Bill of Rights.”

No one from the district attorney’s office contacted Geimer – whose pro-Polanski feelings were widely known – at that time or in September when the director was arrested in Zurich on a three-decades-old arrest warrant, according to the papers.

Prosecutors later submitted a formal extradition request to Swiss authorities, and the director is being held under house arrest pending a decision by the courts there.

“The failure to give notice to and to confer prior to a determination to extradite the defendant ... is a violation to the California Constitution,” Silver wrote.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office said Wednesday that the office had not yet received Geimer’s filing and could not comment.

Geimer began advocating for Polanski after reaching a settlement to her civil suit against him for sexual assault and other claims. Under the terms of the confidential 1993 agreement, he agreed to pay her at least $500,000.

Judge Peter Espinoza, the supervising judge of the Superior Court’s criminal division, will hear arguments at Friday’s proceeding concerning Polanski’s request to be sentenced in absentia. A state appellate court proposed such a sentencing last month as a way to air the filmmaker’s claims of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct in the original handling of the case without requiring Polanski to return to the U.S.

Prosecutors have opposed the measure, saying it amounts to letting a fugitive dictate court proceedings. In her papers, Geimer said she favored sentencing in absentia.

It was the desire of Geimer’s parents to spare her the ordeal of testifying at a public trial that led to a plea deal regarded then and now as exceptionally favorable to Polanski. He agreed to plead guilty to a single count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor – a statutory rape charge – and prosecutors said they would drop rape, sodomy, oral copulation and other counts at sentencing.

That proceeding did not happen because Polanski fled to Europe. His lawyers contend he left because the trial judge reneged on an agreement to count the 42 days the director had spent in prison for diagnostic testing as his entire sentence

-- Harriet Ryan

Photo: Movie director Roman Polanski. Credit: Los Angeles Times archives

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