Roman Polanski's lawyer says director should not face more prison time in 1977 case

James Queally and Marisa Gerber, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES -- Another chapter in the twisting legal saga of director Roman Polanski unfolded in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Monday morning as a defense attorney argued that the director should be allowed to return to the U.S. and be sentenced to time served decades after pleading guilty to having sex with a minor in the spring of 1977.

Attorney Harland Braun said Monday that Polanski, who would have faced a maximum of 12 months in prison for the crime under the penal code as it was written in the 1970s, has effectively served that sentence already between his previous detention in Los Angeles and the nearly 10 months he served in a Swiss jail when he was detained there in 2009.

"He has actually done nearly eight times the sentence he was promised," Braun said.

Superior Court Judge Scott M. Gordon did not enter a ruling Monday morning and has 90 days to deliver a written order in the case, according to Mary Hearn, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles Superior Court.

After the hearing, Braun told reporters that his client would return to the U.S. immediately as long as he knew he would be sentenced under the terms of his original plea deal.

The case dates back to 1977, when Polanski, then 43, picked up Samantha Gailey -- a 13-year-old junior high student -- and brought her to Jack Nicholson's house for a photo shoot. He gave her champagne and part of a Quaalude pill and, according to testimony from Gailey, he forced her to have sex with him.

After reaching a deal with prosecutors, Polanski, who pleaded guilty to unlawful intercourse with a minor, was sent to a state prison for a 90-day diagnostic evaluation. Judge Laurence Rittenband, who presided over the case at the time, said the evaluation would help him reach a fair sentencing decision. The director was released after 42 days, and prison officials said they didn't believe he needed additional prison time. Rittenband, facing fierce media pressure, went against the recommendation, saying he planned to send Polanski back to prison for an additional 48 days.

Polanski then hopped a flight out of Los Angeles and fled to Europe.

As the decades have worn on, two portraits of Polanski have emerged. While many still shun him as a pederast who fled from justice, some in Hollywood have argued he was treated unfairly by a judge who wanted to make an example of a powerful filmmaker.

Director Brett Ratner, a close friend of Polanski, was in the courthouse Monday and could be seen chatting with Braun in an adjacent hallway. He declined to comment and walked away when approached by reporters.


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