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?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific