Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski, 81, who fled the United States in 1978 the night before he was to be sentenced for statutory rape, wants to return, and his attorneys, including Alan M. Dershowitz, filed suit on Monday, accusing district attorneys and judges of “serious misconduct” in their efforts to prosecute and extradite their client.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the suit alleges that the Department of Justice issued a “false” extradition request to the Polish government asking the Poles to arrest Polanski in October when he visited the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland.
When Polanski was five years old in the Krakow Ghetto, he saw numerous atrocities; his mother was murdered in Auschwitz.
Polanski was charged with raping and sodomizing a 13-year-old girl in 1977, then accepted a plea deal to plead guilty to statutory rape. Psychological tests were performed on him in the state prison in Chino for 42 days before he was released.
The lawsuit alleges that the October extradition request does not acknowledge the court-ordered prison time which had been ordered by Judge Laurence J. Rittenband in 1977 as the sentence for Polanski’s crime, as well as Rittenband’s private assurance that if Polanski returned to Chino and completed the 90 days of testing, he could leave the country. If Polanski refused to emigrate, more prison time would be imposed.
Polanski’s attorney, Douglas Dalton, said Rittenband had no authority to use psychiatric testing to jail Polanski and no right to exile him. The lawsuit also accuses Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza of capitulating to public pressure and bowing to Judge David Wesley in 2008-9 when he utilized the fugitive disentitlement doctrine to attempt to extradite Polanski.
The New York Times notes that a former public information officer of the court, Allan Parachini, added information to the lawsuit comprised of encounters and emails that “showed Judge Espinoza to have prejudged issues that had not yet been argued in court.”
Polanski was nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium for Rosemary’s Baby in 1968, and won three other Oscar nominations for directing: Chinatown (1974), Tess (1979), and The Pianist (2002). He won the Oscar for The Pianist.