A Transcript Is Unsealed, and It Backs Polanski's Claim

Prosecutor testified that judge privately revealed he'd break his promise, send Polanski to prison
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 18, 2022 8:22 AM CDT
A Transcript Is Unsealed, and It Backs Polanski's Claim
Director Roman Polanski appears at an international film festival in Krakow, Poland, on May 2, 2018.   (AP Photo, File)

A Los Angeles judge privately told lawyers he would renege on a promise and imprison Roman Polanski for having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977, a former prosecutor testified, setting the stage for the renowned director to flee the US as a fugitive. A previously sealed transcript obtained by the AP late Sunday of testimony by retired Deputy District Attorney Roger Gunson supports Polanski's claim that he fled on the eve of sentencing in 1978 because he didn't think he was getting a fair deal. Gunson said during closed-door testimony in 2010 that the judge broke a promise to let Polanski go free after state prison officials had determined he shouldn't serve hard time.

"The judge had promised him on two occasions ... something that he reneged on," Gunson said. "So it wasn't surprising to me that, when he was told he was going to be sent off to state prison ... that he could not or would not trust the judge." Defense lawyer Harland Braun has asserted that Judge Laurence Rittenband, now deceased, had been swayed by publicity in the case and changed his mind several times about the punishment Polanski should face. Braun said Friday, in expectation of the transcript's release, that the development would renew his effort to have Polanski sentenced in absentia, which would end his status as a fugitive from justice. Braun has unsuccessfully tried that before, with prosecutors asserting and judges agreeing that Polanski needs to show up in Los Angeles Superior Court to resolve the matter.

Gunson acknowledged during his testimony that the judge had discretion to sentence Polanski up to 50 years because there'd been no agreed-upon sentence. But Gunson objected to the "sham" proceedings the judge was orchestrating and felt he'd broken promises to Polanski. Release of the transcript was ordered by a California appeals court Wednesday after Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon dropped long-standing objections his predecessors made to its release. France, Switzerland, and Poland have all rejected bids to extradite the 88-year-old back to the US. The victim, Samantha Geimer, has long advocated that the case be dismissed or that Polanski be sentenced in absentia. However, Gascon hasn't indicated Polanski will be able to avoid a court appearance. A press release said Polanski remains a fugitive and should surrender to the court for sentencing.

(More Roman Polanski stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.