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Polanski loses bid to be tried in absentia

Video by Rebecca BOWRING


Latest update : 2010-04-23

A US court rejected Roman Polanski's latest bid to be tried in absentia for having unlawful sex with a minor in 1977. Currently under house arrest in Switzerland, he will have to return to California before he can be sentenced.

AFP - A California appeals court Thursday quashed a bid by Roman Polanski to be tried in absentia for his child sex case, clearing the way for the director to be extradited back to the United States.

California's 2nd District Court of Appeal tossed an appeal filed by Polanski's legal team following a hearing in January, where the film-maker's request to be sentenced without having to return from Europe was denied.

The appellate court panel found that Polanski had "failed to demonstrate" that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza had lacked the discretion to deny the director's earlier absentia request.

Dismissal of the appeal removes another obstacle from the path of Los Angeles prosecutors seeking sentencing of infamous Oscar-winning director Polanski, 76, in his decades-old child sex abuse case.

Polanski is under house arrest in Switzerland following his detention last September on a US arrest warrant for having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Swiss officials said in February that a decision on whether to move forward with Polanski's extradition could not be made until the director had exhausted his US appeals.

Authorities in Switzerland have however emphasized that any extradition process could take about a year once likely appeals by Polanski against his return had been heard by Switzerland's highest courts.

Earlier Thursday, the same California appeals court dismissed a motion by the victim in the case who had sought to have the proceedings dismissed.

The petition, filed on behalf of Samantha Geimer, was "summarily denied by order," court documents showed.

Geimer's attorney, Lawrence Silver, filed court papers last month asking the court to intervene based on alleged judicial and prosecutorial misconduct.

"Samantha Geimer was first victimized by Polanski. Whatever harm was done to her 33 years ago by Polanski is now a memory," Silver wrote.

In a 12-page response, prosecutors countered that Geimer "has no right or authority to dictate the outcome of a criminal case, nor is she entitled to examine evidence possessed either by the prosecution or the defense."

In January, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza denied requests by Polanski and Geimer to dismiss the case, along with a request by Geimer to order prosecutors to withdraw their extradition request for Polanski.

Polanski is alleged to have given Geimer champagne and drugs during a 1977 photo shoot at the Hollywood Hills home of actor friend Jack Nicholson before having sex with her despite her protests.

The director was initially charged with six felony counts, including rape and sodomy. The charge was later reduced to unlawful sexual intercourse after a plea deal agreed in part to spare his victim the ordeal of a trial.

Polanski later served 42 days at a secure unit undergoing psychiatric evaluation but fled the United States on the eve of his sentencing in 1978 amid fears that the trial judge planned to go back on a previously agreed plea deal.

Polanski's flight from justice came after a string of hit films including "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown."

The director, whose wife Sharon Tate was horrifically murdered by Charles Manson's "family" in 1969, won an Oscar for his 2002 film "The Pianist" but was unable to collect the award because of his fugitive status.

Polanski has been confined at his ski chalet in the Swiss resort of Gstaad since being released from custody December 4.

Date created : 2010-04-23