Criminal Justice

Lawyer for Roman Polanski asks for time served in 40-year-old rape case

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Roland Polanski

Roman Polanski at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Image from Andrea Raffin /

Forty years after movie director Roman Polanski fled the United States to avoid penalties for sexual assault, his attorney has asked a judge to sentence him to time served, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

Attorney Harland Braun told a Los Angeles trial court Monday that Polanski should be allowed to return to the United States and be sentenced to time served for the 1977 sexual assault of 13-year-old Samantha Gailey. Polanski would have served no more than 12 months in prison for the crime he was charged with at the time, Braun said. Between the 42 days he served before fleeing and more than nine months in a Swiss jail in 2009, Braun said, Polanski has done enough time.

“He has actually done nearly eight times the sentence he was promised,” which was 90 days, Braun said.

Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee opposed Braun’s request. Her office has said Polanski would face up to two years in prison if he returned to the United States.

“The people simply do not believe it is in the best interests of justice to give a wealthy celebrity different treatment than any other fugitive from justice,” she told the judge.

Polanski was 43 and a successful director in Los Angeles when he approached 13-year-old Gailey and her mother about doing a photo shoot, with an eye toward making her a model. According to Gailey’s contemporary grand jury testimony (posted at the Smoking Gun) he did two photo shoots, which included topless photos. Later, he took her to actor Jack Nicholson’s house, where he took more topless photos. He gave her champagne and part of a Quaalude pill, and asked her to get into a hot tub.

Shortly after she asked to go home, she testified, he forced her to have sex with her, although she repeatedly asked him to stop and started crying. Her mother called the police when she learned what happened.

Polanski later pleaded guilty to unlawful intercourse with a minor. The judge at the time sent Polanski to state prison, where he was to undergo a 90-day diagnostic evaluation. Prison officials were sympathetic and released Polanski after 42 days, saying their work was done. The judge, who the L.A. Times reported was facing pressure from the media, said he’d send the director back to serve the remaining 48 days.

But before he could be returned to prison, Polanski fled the United States for his native France and Poland. He has lived in Europe since.

The case has seen several rounds of activity since the 1990s. Gailey, now Samantha Geimer, settled a lawsuit with Polanski in the 1990s, the Los Angeles Times’ L.A. Now blog previously reported. She said she does not want to see the criminal case pursued. Later in the decade, Polanski came close to a deal with Los Angeles County prosecutors that would have ended the case. But he backed out when the judge said court proceedings would not be closed.

In 2009, Swiss authorities arrested Polanski at the request of the United States. Prosecutors released him from house arrest in summer 2010 after rejecting extradition. That round of legal action also included a decision from a California appeals court denying his request to dismiss the case but calling for an investigation into allegations of improper ex parte communications during the 1977 case. Polish prosecutors questioned Polanski in 2015, but the Supreme Court of Poland ultimately decided against extraditing him.

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