Polanski Child-Sex Case Survives But Appeals Court Seeks Probe of Long-Ago Trial Judge

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Renowned movie director Roman Polanski’s bid to dismiss a child-sex case has been denied by a California appeals court.

But, referring to allegations of misconduct by the now-deceased trial judge in the decades-old case and that a plea agreement wasn’t honored, the three-judge appellate panel called for an investigation of these claims by the Los Angeles district attorney’s office, reports the New York Times.

Saying in a 70-page written opinion that the panel is “disturbed by the district attorney’s refusal in the briefing submitted to this court” to address allegations that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Laurence Rittenband mishandled the Polanski case, the panel called for the DA’s office to probe not only the behavior of Rittenband, who died in 1993, but retired assistant district attorney David Wells, who also worked on the case.

The opinion was authored by Justice Laurie Zelon; Presiding Justice Dennis Perluss and Justice Fred Woods concurred.

A spokeswoman for the DA’s office declined to comment.

Concerning the merits of Polanski’s request that the case against him be dismissed, the court held that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza did not abuse his discretion by refusing to consider it because of the movie director’s fugitive status.

However, the panel indicated that remedies up to and including dismissal of the case might be appropriate if judicial misconduct by Rittenband can be established.

Polanski, who avoided rape and sodomy charges concerning a 13-year-old girl by pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, fled the country in 1978 before he was sentenced. He is now on house arrest in Switzerland, awaiting potential extradition to the United States.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com (Jan. 2009): “Polanski Wins Calif. Appellate Review of Bias Claim re Child-Rape Case”

ABAJournal.com (April 2008): “Roman Polanski Documentary Puts New Spin on Child Sex Crime”

L.A. Now (Sept. 2009): “Retired prosecutor says he lied about Polanski case”

L.A. Now (Los Angeles Times): “Appeals court denies Roman Polanski’s bid to throw out sex case”

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