Polanski went to her home on the afternoon of Feb. 20 and took some pictures in the hills nearby. He picked her up again March 10, stopped at Jacqueline Bisset's house and, as the light was fading, went to Nicholson's compound on Mulholland Drive.
The next night, a team of seven police investigators and prosecutors pulled up to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
Polanski was meeting friends in the lobby. The boyish, 43-year-old Polish director was as recognizable as any star, known not just for his movies but the extremes of his life -- the death of his mother at Auschwitz, his playboy image, the killing of his wife, Sharon Tate, and their unborn child by the Manson family.
The lead detective, Philip Vannatter, spotted him and strode up, quietly saying he had a warrant for his arrest and needed to search his room.
"We don't want to create a sensation," the detective said, according to Polanski's 1984 autobiography. Polanski asked what the charge was.
Polanski led him to the suite, according to Vannatter's grand jury testimony. As they walked, the detective saw him pull what looked like a tablet out of his coat pocket and lower his cupped hand, as if he were going to drop it on the floor.
Vannatter opened his hand below Polanski's. "Why don't you drop it into my hand instead of the floor?" he said. It was a quaalude pill, marked "Rorer 714."
In the suite, Vannatter and his team collected cameras, lenses, film, slides and negatives, and found a small vial of prescription quaaludes. They arrested Polanski and drove to Nicholson's house with another search warrant.
Polanski was talking feverishly along the way. "He was nervous as a hen on a hot rock," Vannatter, who was later a key figure in the O.J. Simpson case, recalled this month.
"He kept asking me if he could have the quaalude back all night because he was so nervous."
Before the grand jury
While the commotion over Polanski's arrest raged, the detectives built their case. Vannatter was looking to put him in prison for 15 to 20 years.
The physical evidence was strong, but not perfect. The photos developed from Polanski's film showed Samantha topless, drinking champagne in a Jacuzzi. The pills matched the one she described. A police criminalist could not find sperm in her underwear, but a chemical test indicated semen. The doctor who examined Samantha found no bruises or tearing, but would explain that this was common when no force was involved.
The district attorney took the case to the grand jury on March 24. As is usual, there would be no cross-examination, no public, no media. The 23-member panel would decide if there was enough evidence to go to trial.
The first witness was Samantha's mother, Susan Gailey. Deputy Dist. Atty. Gunson inquired about the first photo shoot.
"Did you ask Polanski if you could go?"
"Yes," Gailey said. "And he said, 'No, that he would rather be alone with her because she will respond more naturally.' "