After 30 years' exile, Polanski challenges US rape charge

Film director claims new evidence proves he was the victim of 'judicial misconduct'

Thirty years after Roman Polanski admitted having sex with a 13-year-old girl, lawyers for the still-unapologetic film director have asked a Los Angeles judge to dismiss the charge of statutory rape against him.

The Oscar-winning director, who has been unable to set foot in America since 1978, claims that new evidence shows he was the victim of "judicial misconduct" during the trial in which he pleaded guilty to unlawful intercourse with a minor.

Attorneys acting for Polanski, 72, filed a 30-page lawsuit at Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday alleging that "repeated, unlawful and unethical misconduct" by a prosecutor and the trial judge meant the case should now be dropped "in the interests of justice".

They quoted "extraordinary new evidence" from the recent HBO documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, in which LA's former deputy district attorney David Wells admitted discussing the case with Judge Lawrence Rittenband during proceedings, an apparent contravention of protocol.

The legal bid marks the latest twist in one of Hollywood's longest-running soap operas, which began in 1977 when Polanski was arrested for having sex with Samantha Geimer, a 13-year-old model he had hired for a magazine photo shoot. He was accused of plying the girl with the sedative Quaaludes and several glasses of champagne, before taking her into a hot tub and having sex with her at the actor Jack Nicholson's house in the Hollywood hills.

Polanski, whose private life had previously been in the news after his wife, the actress Sharon Tate, was murdered by followers of Charles Manson, was initially indicted on six felony counts and faced up to life in prison.

But in a plea-bargain that left five of the counts dismissed, he pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse. Soon afterwards, he absconded to France, which has highly limited extradition agreements with the USA.

The judge issued a warrant for his arrest that is still in effect, and could be enacted the moment Polanski sets foot in the country. The maximum sentence for his crime was 50 years, although prosecutors say the typical sentence would be 16 months to three years.

In some industries, paedophilia would ruin a man's career. But Polanski has remained a popular figure in some Hollywood circles, where many seem bemused by all the fuss and believe he was the victim of a media vendetta. He has continued to direct successful films from Europe, and in 2002 was awarded his first Oscar, for The Pianist, while in exile. He had been nominated for an Academy Award for Tess, Chinatown, and Rosemary's Baby.

Despite having admitted having sex with a 13-year-old, Polanski has made repeated attempts to ensure that his apparent sexual peccadillos do not overshadow his legacy as one of the world's greatest directors.

In 2004, he successfully sued Vanity Fair magazine in London over an article that wrongly claimed he had made sexual advances to a young model on the way to Sharon Tate's funeral. He was awarded £50,000 in damages after appearing via video link to testify at the High Court, fearing that he would be extradited if he set foot on British soil. The actress Mia Farrow gave evidence in his support.

Following the case, which was described as a pressing example of "libel tourism", Vanity Fair's editor Graydon Carter said: "I find it astonishing that a man who lives in France can sue a magazine that is published in America in a British courtroom."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own