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Judge denies Roman Polanski victim's request to drop statutory rape case

Judge denies Roman Polanski victim's request to drop statutory rape case
A Los Angeles County judge has turned down Roman Polanski's most recent request to unseal testimony given by the original prosecutor in his four-decade-old sex case. (Lionel Bonaventure / AFP/Getty Images)

It was a dramatic moment in Roman Polanski's four-decade-long legal battle: Samantha Geimer, the victim in the filmmaker's 1977 statutory rape case, appeared in a Los Angeles County courtroom in June and asked the judge to drop the case.

She said she was tired of the media spectacle, the personal anguish and the never-ending court drama.

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On Friday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon denied that request.

"Her statement is dramatic evidence of the long-lasting and traumatic effect these crimes, and [Polanski's] refusal to obey court orders and appear for sentencing, is having on her life," the judge wrote in his 10-page decision.

But he added that the court isn't obligated to dismiss the case "merely because it would be in the victim's best interest."

In his ruling, Gordon sharply rebuked Polanski, writing that his fugitive status "continues to harm [Geimer] and compounds the trauma of the sexual assault committed against her that gave rise to this case."

Gordon also denied Polanski's latest request to unseal testimony given in early 2010 by Roger Gunson, the original prosecutor. The testimony was "properly sealed" under state law, so "there is no basis by which this court can revisit that question," Gordon wrote.

Gunson gave the testimony while Polanski was in custody in Switzerland and facing extradition to the U.S. The director was ultimately freed after Swiss officials rejected the U.S.'s request, citing the mystery surrounding the sealed Gunson testimony.

Polanski's lawyers have long contended that the Gunson testimony contains crucial details about a plea agreement made in the case that would have limited the filmmaker's sentence to time he served at a Chino prison.

The director pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor and was sent to Chino for a 90-day diagnostic evaluation starting in late 1977. He was released after spending 42 days in custody, based on the recommendation of the prison.

But when it appeared that Judge Laurence Rittenband wanted to send him back to jail, Polanski fled the U.S. for Europe before an official sentence was handed down.

Harland Braun, Polanski's U.S. attorney, said Friday that the director was forced to flee because Rittenband was dishonest. He also questioned why the Gunson testimony has remained sealed.

"It's a public proceeding — end of story. The public should have access to it," Braun said in an interview.

In a filing on Friday, Braun reiterated proposals to resolve the case, including having the court sentence Polanski in absentia. But Gordon rejected that suggestion in April, stating that the defendant's fugitive status disqualifies him from seeking relief in the court.

Polanski has also offered to return to L.A. and appear in court if the judge sentences him first. "Although Mr. Polanski accepts responsibility for his conduct, he believes the court system should accept some responsibility for its conduct in the case," Braun wrote in the filing.

But Gordon turned down those suggestions on Friday without issuing a written opinion, Braun said.

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Polanski intends to continue pursuing the case by taking it to Interpol officials in Europe, Braun said. The filmmaker is hoping to convince officials in Lyon, France, that they should not honor any U.S. warrants for his arrest.

Two foreign decisions may work in the director's favor — the Swiss decision in 2010 and a decision by Polish officials last year to reject a separate U.S. extradition request.

Perhaps coincidentally, the new ruling in L.A. came on Polanski's birthday. The Oscar-winning director — whose films include "Rosemary's Baby," "Chinatown" and "The Pianist" — turned 84 on Friday.

Polanski resides primarily in France and remains an active filmmaker. He debuted his latest movie, "Based on a True Story," at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

UPDATES:

6:55 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with additional details.

This story was originally published at 5:10 p.m.

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