Judge in Roman Polanski Underage Sex Case to Hear New Arguments

The case dates back to 1977, when the actor plied a 13-year-old girl with champagne and half a sedative before raping her at Jack Nicholson's house.

Polish-born film director Roman Polanski in Montrouge, outside Paris, January 15, 2009.
Polish-born film director Roman Polanski in Montrouge, outside Paris, January 15, 2009. AP

A judge is scheduled to hear new arguments on Monday from Roman Polanski's lawyer about why the fugitive director's long-running underage sex case should be drawn to a close.

Polanski's lawyer has asked a judge to unseal testimony in the case, and also signal whether the Oscar winner would face any additional time if he were to return to Los Angeles for sentencing in the case, involving the fugitive director's unlawful sex with a minor. Prosecutors argue that Polanski, who fled on the eve of sentencing in 1978, must return to a Los Angeles courtroom for the case to be resolved.

Monday's hearing will be the first in Polanski's criminal case in seven years. It features an entirely new set of eyes on the case. This is the first time Judge Scott Gordon, prosecutor Michele Hanisee and Polanski's attorney Harland Braun will convene for a hearing. The trio met in Gordon's chambers in November, but a transcript of the discussion was sealed.

The case dates back to 1977, when Polanski plied a 13-year-old girl with champagne and half a sedative before raping her at actor Jack Nicholson's house. The victim has said she forgives the director and believes the case should end.

Polanski has long contended he is the victim of judicial misconduct because a now-deceased judge in the case suggested in private remarks that he would renege on a plea bargain and sentencing agreement that called for no more time behind bars for the director.

Prosecutors however argue Polanski, 83, is trying to dictate terms in the case from afar without risking further time behind bars. Since fleeing, Polanski's movements have been restricted to his native Poland, France and Switzerland. Both Poland and France have rejected bids by U.S. authorities to extradite Polanski, and he spent more than 300 days in jail and in house arrest during the Swiss proceedings.

Polanski's lawyer contends that is enough to warrant Polanski being sentenced to time served. Hanisee, however, wrote in a court filing last week that Polanski is "once again, trying to dictate the terms of his return without risk to himself. "[The] defendant wants answers — but will only show up if he likes the answers," she wrote.

Braun, Polanski's lawyer, has based much of his arguments on a 200-page Polish court decision issued in 2015 that that the attorney says questioned "the integrity and honesty of many of the judges who over the years were involved in the Polanski case."

On Friday, the veteran defense attorney filed a motion asking that Polanski be sentenced without being present in court, a request that has been denied by previous judges and upheld by a California appellate court on the grounds that the director remains a fugitive.

Hanisee wrote that the Polish decision relies on a flawed understanding of the U.S. judicial system and is not relevant in the Los Angeles court.

Both sides agree the case that Polanski's case has a bizarre legal history, although Braun attributes that to judicial misconduct while Hanisee attributed much of the recent drama to the director's "repeated requests ... for secret hearings and special treatment."

She pointed to a 1996 meeting between prosecutors, Polanski's former lawyer and a Los Angeles judge in which a deal was apparently reached for the director to be sentenced to time served, but would require that he appear for a public court appearance. Braun denies Polanski wanted a secret hearing. Regardless, no transcript of the meeting with the judge exists.

Among the requests Gordon will consider on Monday is a motion by Polanski to unseal testimony from retired Deputy District Attorney Roger Gunson, who originally handled Polanski's case. Gunson gave the testimony over three days in 2010 in case he was unable to testify at any future proceedings in the case. Braun has said the testimony could assist in resolving the case.

Polanski won an Academy Award for best director for his 2002 film "The Pianist" and was nominated for 1974's "Chinatown" and 1979's "Tess."