Roman Polanski & Sex Charge Conviction

The famous movie director, Roman Polanski, failed in his attempt to overturn his 30 year-old conviction for having sex with a minor.  Los Angeles, California, Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza decided against Polanski but said he would reconsider if Polanski returned to the United States to appear before the court by May 7th.  Polanski fled to France in 1978 and has been gone ever since.

Polanski is now 75 years old.  He is famous as the director of such movies as “Rosemary’s Baby”, “Chinatown”, and “The Pianist.”

Polanski, in his attempt to overturn his conviction, claims the judge to whom he pled guilty in 1978 improperly coached the prosecutor in the case.  There might be something to that claim.  Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney David Wells spoke of his contacts with that Judge, who is now deceased, in the documentary film “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.”  Judge Espinoza in deciding against Polanski last Tuesday even said, “”It is hard to contest that some of the conduct portrayed in film on that documentary was misconduct.”

But there is a roadblock before getting to the merits of Polanski’s claim.  That roadblock is Polanski’s absence.  Indeed, prosecutors have successfully argued that Polanski has no right to challenge anything or be heard by the court on any matter because he has no “standing” before the court.  This is a long-standing concept still very much alive in the courts.  One must have standing to be heard on the matter at hand, and Polanski’s having fled and never returned vitiates his standing before the court.

The same is true in Oklahoma today.  If a defendant escapes or runs off while a criminal charge is pending before the court, the court would not hear a lawyer on that person’s behalf until the person surrender to the court, submitted to the court’s personal jurisdiction.  Prosecutors typically refuse to negotiate about a case when the defendant is at large for the same reason. Until the defendant comes before the court, no deals.

Polanski was originally indicted on six charges, including rape, for having sex with a 13-year-old girl after plying her with champagne and drugs.  He insisted the sex was consensual but pleaded guilty to a single count of having sex with a 13-year-old girl, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.  He put his faith in the judge to give him a fair sentence, and spent 42 days incarcerated for psychiatric evaluation in 1978.  He then fled before the judge could sentence him because he became convinced the judge intended to send him back to prison, contrary to a plea agreement he had made with prosecutors.

Polanski is a citizen of his France, where he resides, and cannot be extradited to the United States.  However, he faces arrest if he ever returns to the United States, and he is obviously trying to clear that up.

Polanski’s attorneys had sought to disqualify the entire Los Angeles County court system from hearing this matter, but that request was rejected earlier this month by a California appeals court.

Polanski has an interesting past for other reasons.  His mother was killed in the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.  Polanski also has a link to Mr. “Helter Skelter”, Charles Manson.  It was Roman Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, while pregnant, who was attacked in their Beverly Hills home by the Charles Manson gang in 1969, while Polanski was out of town on business.  They wrote “Helter Skelter” in blood on the walls of the home.  Polanski directed four actors to Oscar-nominated performances: Ruth Gordon, Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and Adrien Brody.  Polanski himself won the Oscar for his direction in 2002 for “The Pianist,” which he made in Europe.  Polanski’s friend, Harrison Ford, flew to Paris to present the award to Polanski, who continued to stay out of the United States to avoid being arrested.

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