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Roman Polanski sues film academy over his expulsion from its ranks

Roman Polanski sues film academy over his expulsion from its ranks
Director Roman Polanski photographed in 2017 at the Cannes Film Festival. (Valery Hache / AFP/Getty Images)

Nearly one year after he was expelled from the ranks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, director Roman Polanski has filed suit against the organization, arguing that the academy did not follow proper procedure in ejecting him and that he should be reinstated.

The academy’s board of governors voted last May to expel Polanski, who has earned five Oscar nominations for his work on such films as “Chinatown” and “Rosemary's Baby,” along with Bill Cosby after instituting new standards of conduct for members in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct scandal.

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Polanski pleaded guilty in 1977 to unlawful sex with a minor, then-13-year-old Samantha Geimer. Since fleeing the country, he has been living in exile in Europe for the past four decades and is considered a fugitive by the U.S. criminal justice system.

According to Polanski’s attorney, Harland Braun, the filmmaker had been galled that an organization that gave him a standing ovation in 2003 when he won the directing Oscar for "The Pianist" had kicked him out without granting him a hearing. The suit filed Friday in Los Angeles alleges that the group’s decision to summarily expel Polanski was “in violation of the Academy’s policies and regulations and in violation of California Corporations Code 7341 (b) and (c).”

“All we want is a fair hearing,” Braun told The Times on Friday. “You have an offense that’s 40 years old, in which he has admitted his guilt, he has apologized to the victim, he has done more time than the law requires and the victim has come forward and begged the courts to put an end to it. What else do they want from an 85-year-old man? There’s got to be some point at which you forgive.”

Polanski, who served 42 days in Chino State Prison in 1977, has long contended that the judge in his case engaged in misconduct by reneging on the terms of his plea deal and that he should be allowed to return to America on time served.

For her part, Geimer has publicly forgiven Polanski and joined Braun last year in an unsuccessful effort to convince a judge to free the director from his international warrant. In an interview with Vanity Fair last May, she called the academy's decision to expel Polanski "an ugly and cruel action which serves only appearance."

In the wake of the Weinstein scandal, the academy established a new code of conduct under which members are expected to “uphold the Academy’s values of respect for human dignity.” Early last year, the group outlined procedures for how claims of violations of its standards of conduct would be reported, investigated and appealed, even as it stipulated that the board retains the right to take action regarding a member's status “on any matter, whether submitted by the process outlined above or not.”

Braun argues that, under the law, Polanski was entitled to a chance to respond to the academy’s concerns before he was expelled.

“It’s a very narrow issue: Does the rule that applies to all corporations, and to the academy in particular, apply to Roman Polanski?” Braun said. “If [the court] decides yes, he gets readmitted to the academy and they can bring a proceeding if they want. And that we would look forward to. But we’d like it to be fair, according to the rules, and public.”

The academy issued the following statement via a spokesperson: "The procedures taken to expel Mr. Polanski were fair and reasonable. The Academy stands behind its decision as appropriate."

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