Unsealed testimony claims judge reneged on promise in Roman Polanski sex case
A Los Angeles judge withdrew his promise not to jail Roman Polanski for sexually abusing a teenage girl in 1977, a former prosecutor claimed years ago, leading the famed director to flee the US decades ago.
Previously sealed testimony from former assistant district attorney Roger Gunson revealed that in 2010 the judge reneged on his promise to let Polanski free after county probation and state prison officials ruled that he should not be imprisoned.
“The judge had promised him twice…something he reneged on,” Gunson said. “So it wasn’t surprising to me that when he was told he was going to be sent to state prison…that he couldn’t or wouldn’t trust the judge.”
The transcript of Gunson’s testimony was released by a California appeals court on Wednesday after the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office dropped objections to its release.
Polanski’s lawyer said his client was “ecstatic” with the latest revelation as it confirms Polanski’s claim he was not getting fair treatment when he fled before sentencing in 1978.
Lawyer Harland Braun said on Monday he was pushing for Polanski to be sentenced to time served following a prison assessment in 1977 and house arrest in Switzerland decades later.
“He’s waiting to see what happens next,” Braun said. “It’s the first chance he’s really had in this case.”
Braun said Polanski, 88, should be sentenced without appearing in court, which prosecutors have rejected in the past. Braun fears being arrested as a fugitive if he returns.
Polanski was accused of giving a 13-year-old girl champagne and part of a sedative before forcing her to have sex in March 1977. She testified before a grand jury that she did not not fought because she was scared, but her mother later called the police.
But the girl did not testify in court and Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor until prosecutors dropped rape, sodomy and drug charges.
The Oscar-winning director was fired as a fellow of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2018 at the height of the #MeToo movement, but avoided legal issues with France, Switzerland and Poland, rejecting all claims. extradition requests to the United States. .
The judge handling the case, Laurence Rittenband, who is deceased, was swayed by the publicity attached to the case and kept changing her mind about Polanski’s potential punishment, Braun said.
Rittenband said if Polanski received a favorable report from the prison he was sent to for a 90-day evaluation after probation officials said he would have to serve time in prison, he would not serve any more time. , Gunson said.
But after prison officials recommended that he only serve probation, Rittenband felt the reports from probation and prison officials were “whitewashing,” Gunson said.
Rittenband said he would give him a longer prison term – Polanski could have faced 50 years, Gunson said – but would release him after serving 120 days. Gunson said he opposed the judge’s “sham” of proceedings even if he accepted probation and prison officials downplayed the crimes.
“Roman says, ‘How can I trust the judge who lied twice?’ So he flies to Europe,” Braun said.
Polanski’s attorneys heard Gunson’s testimony at the time, but were unable to use it in court because it was later sealed.
The victim, Samantha Geimer, has already fought for the case to be thrown out or for Polanski to be convicted without appearing in court.
“I implore you to consider taking steps to finally close this matter as an act of mercy to myself and my family,” Geimer told a judge five years ago.
Polanski agreed to pay Geimer $600,000 in 1993 to settle a lawsuit.
Prosecutors have consistently opposed the release of sealed testimony, but reversed course earlier this week because Geimer had pushed for the transcript to be made public.
“This case has been described by the courts as ‘one of the longest running sagas in California criminal justice history,'” Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “For years, this office has fought against the disclosure of information that the victim and the public have a right to know.”
With post wires