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Fame and celebrity

40 years after child-sex case, director Roman Polanski makes fresh legal bid to return to US

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 1:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 9:35pm

The fugitive filmmaker Roman Polanski plans to return to the United States and is seeking assurances he will do no further jail time over unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

The award-winning director of The Pianist and Chinatown, who has been on the run from US authorities for almost 40 years, claims he reached a plea deal in the case that would keep him out of prison, his attorney Harland Braun said.

Braun has written to Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Scott Gordon to unseal a secret transcript of the testimony of the prosecutor in the Polanski case, which he believes will confirm the deal.

The Paris-born director was accused of drugging Samantha Gailey - who now uses the surname Geimer - before raping her at film star Jack Nicholson’s house in Los Angeles in 1977.

Polanski, who also has French citizenship, admitted having unlawful sex with a minor, or statutory rape, and spent 42 days in Chino State Prison before being released.

But in 1978, convinced a judge was going to scrap the plea deal and hand him a hefty prison sentence, he fled for France.

Polanski was arrested in Switzerland in 2009 on a US extradition request and spent 10 months under house arrest before Bern rejected the US order.

The United States then asked Poland to extradite Polanski in January 2015, but the country’s Supreme Court ruled in December that he had served his time under the plea deal.

Braun believes the prosecutor’s secret testimony supports Polanski’s claim that he had an agreement to serve just 48 days and that - taken with the Polish decision - it should convince the US authorities Polanski has served his time.

“After we confirm the contents, we will urge the court to recognise the Polish decision resulting from a litigation initiated by the (district attorney) and in which the DA participated,” Braun said.

“If the court accepts the principle of comity, Roman can come to Los Angeles and to court without fear of custody.”

Polanski told the private news channel TVN24 after the Polish court had ruled in his favour that he was “happy this business is over once and for all.”

“I only regret that I had to wait so long. I’ll finally be able to feel safe in my own country.”

Polanski, who lives in France and had been avoiding Poland because he feared US extradition, said he planned to visit his father’s grave in the southern city of Krakow.

He has avoided the US since the statutory rape case - not even returning to accept the Oscar for The Pianist - and jousted with the Justice Department for years after.

Geimer herself called for the charges to be dropped, complaining that in dogging Polanski for so long, antagonists had made her co-victim in a case she wanted to put behind her.

“The publicity was so traumatic and so horrible that his punishment was secondary to just getting this whole thing to stop,” Geimer told CNN in 2003.

Polanski wants to visit the Los Angeles grave of his wife Sharon Tate - murdered by Charles Manson’s followers in 1969 - the celebrity news website TMZ reported. He has also been unable to visit his daughter at her home in London, it said.