Polanski's wife blames assault on 'crazy' 1970s

LA judge to decide whether Polish-born film director can be sentenced in absentia

The wife of the film director Roman Polanski said yesterday that she "understands" why other mothers are shocked by the fact that her husband had sex with a 13-year-old girl in the 1970s.

But the French singer and actress Emmanuelle Seigner, 43, said that her husband was a "marvellous man" who "bore no relation" to the sexual predator described in some press accounts of the 32-year-old case revived by his arrest in Switzerland last year.

She blamed the "crazy" moral climate of Los Angeles in the 1970s for Polanski's sexual assault on the girl at the home of the actor Jack Nicholson in 1977. "It was a time of madness," she said. "Attitudes to drugs and sexual liberty and permissiveness are no longer the same today."

Ms Seigner was talking to French Elle magazine as a Californian judge was preparing to rule last night on whether Polanski, 76, could be sentenced in his absence or whether he must be extradited to the US.

"The man I know bears no relation to the man described in some newspapers," said Ms Seigner, who has lived with Polanski since she was 18. "As far as I am concerned, Roman has always been a marvellous husband and father."

Ms Seigner is about to release her second pop album, Dingue, French for "crazy", which will include a duet with her husband. She told Elle that she was confident that "this business will be sorted out by the Americans".

Polanski fled the US in 1977 after pleading guilty to a charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with an underage girl. He was arrested in Switzerland in September and detained for two months before being released into house arrest at his Swiss chalet in December.

A judge in Los Angeles was due to decide last night whether Mr Polanski could remain in Switzerland while he is sentenced. His lawyers argue that, as part of a plea bargain in 1977, he was promised a short sentence which he served while awaiting trial. They say he fled the country when he was warned that the judge had changed his mind.

Prosecutors insist that Polanski must be extradited to the US for sentencing. Whichever way the Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza rules, there seems certain to be an appeal and several more months of legal wrangling.

Polanski's victim, Samantha Geimer, has also appealed to the court in LA to allow the Polish-born director to remain in Europe. Ms Geimer has consistently objected to the revival of the case.

Polanski was accused of plying her with champagne and drugs and raping and sodomising her during a modelling shoot at Nicholson's house. He was indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy. He pleaded guilty to a single count of unlawful sexual intercourse.

Ms Seigner told Elle she "perfectly understood" that "other mothers" would be shocked by the allegations against her husband. She and Polanski have two children, Morgane, 16, and Elvis, nine.

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