Polanski's Arrest, Possible Extradition Examined
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
It started 32 years ago with the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles. Now it's an international incident with France and Poland sending letters of protest to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It's the case of film director Roman Polanski, who was arrested in Switzerland over the weekend on an international warrant.
Polanski, the director of films including "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" has been a fugitive after he pleaded guilty to one count of having sex with a minor, then fled the U.S. before sentencing. Prosecutors in Los Angeles want Polanski extradited. His lawyers say he's in a fighting mood.
And Matthew Belloni, editor of The Hollywood Reporter's entertainment law blog joins us to explain what's happened so far. Welcome to the program.
Mr. MATTHEW BELLONI (Editor, The Hollywood Reporter Entertainment Law blog) Thanks very much.
BLOCK: Now, Roman Polanski pleaded guilty back in 1977, served 42 days in state prison, then was supposed to appear for sentencing under the plea bargain and fled. Why did he flee?
Mr. BELLONI: Well, at the time he felt that the judge in the case had it in for him and that he wasn't going to honor the terms of the plea. Since he's been a fugitive, there have been a lot of things that have come to light about the trial and the judge, most recently in an HBO documentary about the case that really called into question some of the judge's tactics. And featured interviews from people on both sides of the case that suggested that there was a bit of misconduct going on with the judge, who has since died. He didn't want to deal with this anymore.
BLOCK: Right. So instead of being sentenced to time served, he would've been facing a much - many years in prison.
Mr. BELLONI: Absolutely.
BLOCK: Roman Polanski has been living in France. He has French citizenship, so he couldn't be extradited from there. But he's traveled widely. He shot lots of new movies over the last three decades. There would've been, presumably, lots of opportunities to have arrested him before. Why now?
Mr. BELLONI: That's the question I think a lot of people are asking. The L.A. County district attorney's office has said that they've been actively seeking him since about 2005, and they've even worked with the Swiss government to try to bring him in. And I think what happened is a couple of things here. First, the opportunity to get him where they knew where he was going to be, he was receiving an award at the Zurich Film Festival, and he had agreed to accept it. And it was sort of the - an opportune moment.
In the past they have made efforts to get him and for whatever reason had backed out at the last moment. Either Polanski or his lawyers caught wind of it, or they just decided it wasn't an opportune time. And I think all of the elements came together here when they decided to go for it and they got him.
BLOCK: And now, presumably, a long legal battle over whether he will, in fact, be extradited.
Mr. BELLONI: Yeah. His French lawyer is already saying they're going to fight extradition. The - you know, the L.A. County reps are already saying that, you know, you could fight all you want, but it's not going to happen. It's interesting now - it'll be interesting to see how high this goes up. If the governments get involved or if this stays as sort of a local issue.
BLOCK: And do we know what sentence the prosecutors there in Los Angeles are asking for?
Mr. BELLONI: No. There's another complication here in that the - a few years ago, based in part on the HBO documentary, Polanski's lawyers have been attempting to have the case dismissed. The judge in the case essentially said, you know, you may have a point here, but I'm not going to hear this with Polanski not here in America. So, that is now on appeal. And the California Court of Appeal is going to hear the matter as to whether they should be able to appeal or possibly have the sentence dismissed.
BLOCK: Now, the victim in this case, the girl who was 13 at the time of the attack, has spoken out over the years. She's been quite public about this. She has actually criticized the DA's office for, as she puts it, victimizing her again, publicizing lurid details of the attack in court documents. And she said, sometimes I feel like we both got a life sentence.
Mr. BELLONI: It's interesting there. She actually came out supporting the effort to have the case dismissed. And her position at the time - and she actually filled a declaration with the court saying as much: We've been through this all. I don't want to go through this anymore. The damage has been done to both of us, so let's just move on. And I think she recognized that everything in with the first trial wasn't exactly on the up and up. And she just wants to move on.
BLOCK: Matthew Belloni edits the entertainment law blog for The Hollywood Reporter. Matthew, thanks very much.
Mr. BELLONI: Thank you.
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