Polanski Arrested In Switzerland On U.S. Warrant

Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland over the weekend. He faces possible extradition to the United States to be sentenced on charges of having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. He fled the U.S. a year later, after pleading guilty in the case, and has lived in France for the past 30 years.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And let's turn now to a legal case that dates back more than three decades. Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland over the weekend, at the behest of Los Angeles prosecutors. He faces possible extradition to the United States. He would be sentenced on charges of having sex with a 13-year-old girl back in 1977.

He fled the United States the following year after pleading guilty in the case, and has lived in France since then. NPR's Allison Keyes reports.

(Soundbite of music)

ALLISON KEYES: His movies are provocative and often brutal, including classics like "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby."

(Soundbite of movie, "Rosemary's Baby")

Ms. MIA FARROW (Actor): (as Rosemary) What have you done to him, you maniac?

Mr. SIDNEY BLACKMER (Actor): (as Roman Castevet) Satan is his father, not Guy.

KEYES: The 76-year-old director was in Switzerland to receive an award for his life's work at the Zurich Film Festival. Instead, he was arrested upon arriving at the airport Saturday night.

Sandy Gibbons, spokesperson for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, says prosecutors sent paperwork for a provisional arrest warrant to the U.S. Department of Justice last week, after seeing notices that Polanski would be at the festival.

Ms. SANDY GIBBONS (Spokesperson, Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office): When they looked on the Internet, they were selling tickets.

KEYES: Gibbons says prosecutors had tried to catch Polanski before. But even when authorities have had the proper paperwork to arrest him in countries that have extradition treaties, such as England, Gibbons says Polanski often doesn't show up. This time, she says, he did.

Now, Polanski must decide whether to return to the U.S. voluntarily or whether to appeal in Swiss courts.

Ms. GIBBONS: If he comes back, he'll appear before the court in Los Angeles, and the court will have an opportunity, after all these years, to sentence him, and that's going to be up to the court.

KEYES: In 1977, Polanski was charged with giving drugs and alcohol to a 13-year-old girl during a Hollywood photo shoot and having sex with her. Polanski pleaded guilty only to the sex charge and spent 42 days in prison, undergoing psychiatric evaluation. He fled to France after the collapse of an alleged plea deal.

Professor Valerie Epps, at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, says the 42 days Polanski already served could cause some difficulty under article two of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Switzerland.

Professor VALERIE EPPS (Suffolk University): They're only going to grant extradition if the period - duration of the penalty or detention awarded or their aggregate still to be served amounts to at least six months.

KEYES: Since his sentence was never set, it is unclear whether Polanski would be ordered to serve more jail time. Prosecutors in Los Angeles haven't filed any suggested sentence with the court.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.