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Prosecutor: U.S. judge broke promise in Polanski sex case

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles judge privately told lawyers he would break his promise and jail Roman Polanski for having sex with a teenage girl in 1977, a former prosecutor testified, setting the stage for the famous filmmaker to flee the US. like a fugitive.

A previously sealed transcript of the testimony of former Deputy District Attorney Roger Ganson, obtained by the Associated Press late Sunday night, corroborates Polanski’s claim that he fled on the eve of his 1978 sentencing because he didn’t think he got a fair deal.

Ganson said during a closed-door testimony in 2010 that the judge broke his promise to let Polanski go free after state prison officials decided he should not serve his sentence.

“The judge promised him twice…something he refused,” Ganson said. “So it didn’t surprise me that when he was told he was going to be sent to the state prison … that he couldn’t or didn’t want to trust the judge.”

Defense attorney Harland Brown said Friday – pending the release of the transcript – that the development would restart his efforts to convict Polanski in absentia, ending his status as a fugitive from justice.

Brown had unsuccessfully attempted to do so before, with prosecutors arguing and judges agreeing that Polanski needed to appear in Los Angeles Superior Court to resolve the matter.

Publication of the transcript that was ordered by the California Court of Appeals on Wednesday. after Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon dismissed his predecessors’ longstanding objections to his release, may support Polanski’s claims that a corrupt judge was out to punish him.

The legal saga played out on both sides of the Atlantic. a recurring scene over four decades of a life marred by tragedy as well as triumph.

As a child, Polanski fled the Krakow ghetto during the Holocaust.. His wife Sharon Tate was among seven people killed in 1969 by followers of Charles Manson.

Polanski, 88, who was nominated for Oscars for 1974’s Chinatown and 1979’s Tess, received a Best Director statuette for The Pianist in 2003. But he could not accept it, because he was threatened with arrest. in the USA

France, Switzerland and Poland have rejected requests to extradite him back to the United States, and he continues to be revered in Europe, winning accolades and working with major actors. However, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences removed him from its roster in 2018 after the “MeToo” movement instigated retribution for sexual harassment.

Polanski’s 13-year-old victim testified before a grand jury that during a photo shoot at Jack Nicholson’s home in March 1977, when the actor was out, Polanski gave her champagne and some sedatives and then forced her to have sex. The girl said she didn’t fight him because she was afraid of him, but later her mother called the police.

When the girl refused to testify in court, Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor in exchange for prosecutors dropping drug, rape and homosexual charges.

Polanski argued that there was judicial misconduct in his case. In 2010, a Los Angeles court asked Gunson for a sealed testimony about his recollection of promises made to the filmmaker by the judge in 1977.

Polanski’s lawyers, who were present in the room during Ganson’s testimony but could not use it in court, have long tried to break this transcript to help their case.

According to Brown, Judge Lawrence Rittenband, now deceased, was influenced by the publicity of the case and changed his mind several times about the punishment Polanski should receive.

After being told by probation officers that Polanski should not serve time behind bars, Rittenband sent the director to the state prison for a 90-day diagnostic evaluation to help determine what punishment he should face.

The judge said that as long as Polanski receives a favorable report from prison, he will not serve additional time, Ganson said.

According to Brown, after six weeks of examination in prison, Polanski was released with a recommendation to serve only probation.

But Rittenband considered the probation and prison reports superficial and “whitewashing,” said Gunson, who agreed they downplay or misrepresent Polanski’s crimes.

The judge privately told Gunson and Polanski’s lawyer that he should be tougher because of the criticism in the media.

He said he would send Polanski to prison for a longer period, but then release him within 120 days, which was possible under sentencing rules at the time.

“Roman says, ‘How can I trust a judge who lied twice?’ So he’s leaving for Europe,” Brown said.

Ganson admitted during his testimony that the judge had the right to sentence Polanski to 50 years in prison because there was no agreed sentence. But Ganson objected to the judge’s “sham” trial and felt he had broken promises made by Polanski.

The victim, Samantha Gamer, has long advocated for the case to be dismissed or sentencing Polanski in absentia. She went so far as to travel from her home in Hawaii to Los Angeles five years ago to convince a judge to overturn “the 40-year sentence that was imposed on the victim.” crimes as well as the guilty.”

“I implore you to consider taking action to finally close this case as an act of mercy to me and my family,” Geimer said.

The Associated Press doesn’t usually name victims of sexual assault, but Geimer went public years ago and wrote a memoir called The Girl: A Life in Roman Polanski’s Shadow. Cover photo taken by Polanski.

Polanski agreed to pay Gamer over $600,000 to settle the lawsuit in 1993.

Gamer, who pushed for an investigation into judicial misconduct, asked for the transcript to be printed and, in a letter last month, urged the district attorney’s office to take a fresh look at the case.

Prosecutors consistently objected to the release of the material, but earlier this week gave in to Geimer’s wishes and were transparent to the public.

“The case has been described by the courts as “one of the longest sagas in California’s criminal justice history,” Gascon said in a statement. “For years, this office has been fighting the release of information that the victim and the public have a right to know.”

However, the district attorney did not indicate that Polanski would be able to avoid appearing in court. The press release said that Polanski remains on the run and must stand trial for sentencing.

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