L.A. prosecutor: Polanski cannot be sentenced in absentia in child sex case

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles prosecutor urged a judge today to deny Roman Polanski’s request to be sentenced in a three-decade-old child sex case without surrendering to U.S. authorities.

In papers filed in Superior Court, Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren wrote that sentencing in absentia was “absolutely inappropriate” given Polanski’s continued refusal to return to the U.S. Polanski “as a fugitive and convicted child rapist, must not be permitted to instruct this court how to proceed.”

“Mr. Polanski must surrender,” the prosecutor wrote in the filing submitted to Judge Peter Espinoza in advance of a Jan. 22 hearing.

The director is under house arrest in his Gstaad, Switzerland, ski chalet pending a decision by a Swiss court on whether to extradite him to L.A. A state appellate court proposed sentencing in absentia in a decision last month recommending all sides work toward bringing the long-running legal saga to a close.

The justices wrote that such a sentencing would allow an investigation of Polanski’s claims of judicial and proprietorial misconduct in the original handling of the case.

Although the justices wrote that they did not anticipate anyone involved in the case opposing sentencing in absentia, Espinoza, who has to sign off on such a hearing, said at a hearing last week that he sees the appellate proposal as a suggestion and not a directive.

Polanski was charged with raping and sodomizing a 13-year-old girl during a 1977 photo shoot. Under a plea deal that spared the victim from testifying at a public trial, the filmmaker pleaded guilty to a statutory rape charge.

He spent a month and a half in prison for pre-sentencing diagnostic testing, but fled to Europe on the eve of sentencing after learning from his lawyer that the judge planned to send him back to prison.