Focus on Polanski case turns back to Switzerland

LOS ANGELES — With his latest appeal rejected, Roman Polanski’s fate once again lies in the hands of Swiss authorities.

A California appeals court on Thursday rejected Polanski’s bid to have his case reviewed by a special counsel or to be sentenced in absentia.

The Swiss Justice Ministry had been waiting for the court’s ruling before deciding whether to allow the Oscar-winning director to be returned to Los Angeles for sentencing on his 33-year-old sex case.

But a Swiss official said today that the ministry wouldn’t rush into a decision. If it ultimately approves extradition, Polanski could still lodge court appeals in Switzerland that would delay his return to the United States for months.

Polanski has been under house arrest for months at his chalet in the luxury resort of Gstaad as his attorneys repeatedly sought to win the director’s freedom in Los Angeles courtrooms.

They have argued that Polanski shouldn’t have to be present to be sentenced on one count of unlawful sexual intercourse. In their latest appeal, they argued that he should be sentenced to time served.

The recent appeal focused on newly obtained testimony from a former prosecutor who felt the original judge handling Polanski’s case acted improperly. That testimony remains sealed.

The California 2nd District Court of Appeal dismissed Polanski’s appeal without issuing an opinion. They also dismissed a petition by Polanski’s victim, Samantha Geimer, to have the case dismissed.

The Swiss will only extradite Polanski to the United States if he faces a sentence longer than six months. U.S. prosecutors say Polanski faces up to two years in prison.

It remains unclear how quickly the Swiss will rule on Polanski’s extradition, although Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli has said a decision usually comes within a year of a person’s arrest. Polanski was arrested in late September.

“We first have to receive the official information from the United States, and then we will examine it,” Galli told The Associated Press on Friday. “We can’t make a decision based on media reports. We have to study the ruling.”

“We must have some patience,” he added.

Galli declined to say in which direction Swiss authorities were leaning on Polanski. “If it was obvious that he couldn’t be extradited, we wouldn’t have arrested him,” he said. “But it remains open.”

The director could still seek to end the case in California by appealing to the state Supreme Court. His attorneys declined comment Thursday and have not indicated what their next step will be.

Polanski was accused in 1977 of plying Geimer, then aged 13, with champagne and part of a sedative pill, then raping her at Jack Nicholson’s house.

Polanski was indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy. He later pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse.

Authorities are seeking Polanski’s extradition from Switzerland so he can be sentenced on the charge. The Academy Award-winning director fled the United States on the eve of sentencing in 1978.

His attorneys have said he fled because the judge handling the case planned to send Polanski back to prison even though he had completed a diagnostic study ordered by the court.

Polanski’s attorneys have cited numerous instances of apparent misconduct in the case by the judge, who is now dead. The appeals court and a lower court judge have said there are indications of serious misconduct in how the case was handled, but neither have ordered an evidentiary hearing that could resolve the matter.

Geimer, Polanski’s victim, also has been advocating for the “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown” director. Her appeal, which also was rejected Thursday, sought to dismiss the case because of a recent change to California’s constitution that gave victims a greater role in criminal cases.

Prosecutors argued that the changes did not hand victims the authority to end prosecutions.

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