Film director Roman Polanski’s real-life legal drama may have come to an end after the Swiss government rejected a U.S. extradition request for the Polish filmmaker for a 33-year-old statutory rape charge.
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Swiss officials said the U.S. did not provide requested confidential testimony about Polanski’s 1977-1978 sentencing procedure.
Polanski’s release could terminate the U.S. government’s decades-long pursuit of Polanski, provided that Polanski does not travel to countries with U.S. extradition policies. However, these countries with extradition policies may be loath to enforce them after Polanski’s high-profile arrest drew intense public scrutiny.
The Swiss government revealed that it sought confidential testimony given on Jan. 26 by Roger Gunson, the Los Angeles attorney who led the original prosecution against Polanski. Washington rejected the Swiss request.
“Mr. Polanski can now move freely. Since 12:30 today he’s a free man,” Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said.
It is impossible for Los Angeles and Washington to appeal the Swiss decision. Spokeswoman Sandy Gibbons of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment.
The Oscar-winning director of “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Chinatown” and “The Pianist” was accused of giving his 13-year-old victim with champagne and part of a Quaalude during a 1977 modeling shoot and then raping her. He was initially charged on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy. He plead guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse.
The judge dropped the remaining charges and sentenced Polanski to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. Polanski was released after 42 days by his evaluator, who found him mentally sound and unlikely to repeat his offense. The judge said he would send Polanski back to jail for the remainder of the 90 days, after which he would ask Polanski to agree to a “voluntary deportation.” Polanski fled the U.S. on the before his sentencing.
The Swiss said Gunson’s testimony “should prove” that Polanski served his sentence after undergoing 42 days of diagnostic study.
“If this were the case, Roman Polanski would actually have already served his sentence and therefore both the proceedings on which the U.S. extradition request is founded and the request itself would have no foundation,” said the ministry.
The Justice Ministry added that national interests were considered in its decision, as well as the wishes of the victim, Samantha Geimer, who has since joined in Polanski’s bid for dismissal.
Since his Sept. 26 arrest in Zurich, Polanski seemed destined for extradition.
Of the approximately 200 extradition request Switzerland receives, said Widmer-Schlumpf, only about 5 percent are rejected.
Widmer-Schlumpf explained that Switzerland’s decision does not dismiss Polanski’s crime and is “not about deciding whether he is guilty or not guilty.”
The government said extradition had to be rejected “considering the persisting doubts concerning the presentation of the facts of the case.”
Polanski’s extradition had been complicated because of Polanski’s status as a cultural icon and citizen of both France and Poland and his history as a Holocaust survivor whose first wife was brutally murdered by cult followers of Charles Manson.