Roman Polanski Arrested on 70s Rape Charge

Swiss authorities arrested the film director Roman Polanski as he arrived at Zurich’s airport, paving the way for his possible extradition to the United States in connection with a 32-year-old sex case, reported today’s New York Times.

Prosecutors in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles have sought Polanski, 77, for sentencing under his conviction for having had sex with a 13-year-old girl, Samantha Geimer, in 1977.  According to The Times:

The arrest came as a shock to Mr. Polanski and those who have worked closely with him both on movies and in a continuing attempt to lift the outstanding arrest warrant against him. He had just finished shooting a film in Germany and has traveled often to Switzerland, where he maintained a home.

In Paris, the French culture minister, Frederic Mitterand, said in a statement that he was “astonished” by the arrest. In a separate statement, the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said he had spoken with his Swiss counterpart, and communicated “the desire of the French authorities that the rights of Mr. Polanski be fully respected and that this affair rapidly find a favorable resolution.”

The Swiss Justice Ministry said in a statement that Mr. Polanski, the renowned director of such celebrated films as “Chinatown” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” was put in “provisional detention” pending extradition based on the United States arrest warrant. “Whether Roman Polanski will be effectively extradited to the USA or not can be established only after the extradition process judicially has been finalized,” the statement said. The ministry’s statement added that Mr. Polanski could fight extradition in various courts.

In Los Angeles, a representative for prosecutors described the arrest as all but inevitable in a game of cat and mouse they had never stopped playing. “Any time word is received that Mr. Polanski is planning to be in a country that has an extradition treaty with the U.S., we go through diplomatic channels with the arrest warrant,” said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Polanski, who also made The Pianist, said in 2008 that new evidence in the case shows charges should be dropped.  As Danielle Berrin blogged in December:

You can’t get away with everything in Hollywood—-or can you? Just ask Roman Polanski, who absconded from the country over three decades ago when he was charged with drugging and then having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Despite her pleas to have the charges dropped and the licentious filmmaker’s disturbingly casual admission of guilt, the sex case stamina endured. Now, new evidence revealed in the documentary, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” may provide Polanski’s pedophilia with a get out of jail free card. Or at the very least, a long awaited homecoming to Hollywood.

From Variety:

Polanski’s attorneys cite “extraordinary new evidence” that has surfaced with the release of Marina Zenovich’s “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” as reason to reopen the case. The complaint zeroes in on interviews in which then-deputy district attorney David Wells admits discussing the case with Judge Lawrence Rittenband during legal proceedings from the 1970s and further charges the current District Attorney’s Office with misconduct in statements made upon the docu’s June release.

Polanski, the complaint charges, “was and continues to be the victim of repeated, unlawful and unethical misconduct on the part of the L.A. District Attorney’s Office and L.A. Superior Court.”

A hearing has been set for Jan. 21.

Here’s where The Guardian says it better:

His lawyers have fixed on fresh evidence uncovered in a new documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, that highlights “a pattern of misconduct and improper communications” between the district attorney’s office and Judge Rittenband. In other words the grounds for dismissal appear to be based not on any doubt over Polanski’s guilt (so far as I can tell, there isn’t any) but on the suggestion that the subsequent trial was not handled as spotlessly as it might have been. On such technicalities are guilty men recast as heroes.