Roman Polanski escapes extradition over ‘sex with minor’

A court in Poland ruled yesterday that the law forbids the extradition of filmmaker Roman Polanski to the United States, where he pleaded guilty nearly four decades ago to having sex with a minor.

Roman Polanski, centre, with his lawyers, faces the press at the Bonarowski Palace Hotel in Krakow, Poland. Picture: Getty
Roman Polanski, centre, with his lawyers, faces the press at the Bonarowski Palace Hotel in Krakow, Poland. Picture: Getty

Judge Dariusz Mazur said an extradition procedure would violate the human rights of the 83-year-old director – whose films include Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and The Pianist – because he could be subjected to confinement.

“I find no rational answer to the question: what is the real point of the US extradition request?” said Judge Mazur, who spent more than two hours explaining his reasoning to the court in Krakow.

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The decision could close the case in Polanski’s favour. The Polish prosecutor who argued the case for extradition on behalf of the US did not immediately say whether there would be an appeal.

Judge Mazur insisted Polanski served his punishment in confinement in the US, and later for ten months – partly under house arrest – in Switzerland in 2009-10 when the US unsuccessfully sought his extradition there.

Judge Mazur said US judges and prosecutors violated legal procedures, broke the plea bargain in 1977, denied Polanski the right to a proper defence and appeared biased.

The Oscar-winning Polanski was in Krakow yesterday but did not appear in court.

His attorneys said the US request was legally flawed and as he had already served jail time under a plea-bargain deal with a Los Angeles judge.

“This is not about justice or the interest of the victim,” attorney Jan Olszewski said.

Polanski was initially charged on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, but was allowed to plead guilty in 1977 to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse for having sex with a 13-year-old girl during a photo shoot in Los Angeles.

In exchange, the judge agreed to drop the other charges and sentence him to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. Polanski was released after 42 days by an evaluator who deemed him mentally sound and unlikely to offend again.

The California judge then said he was going to send Polanski back to prison for the remainder of the 90 days and that afterward he would ask Polanski to agree to a “voluntary deportation.” Polanski fled the US on 1 February, 1978, the day he was set to be sentenced to the additional time.

The Polish court’s verdict can be appealed after it is published in next month. Polanski’s movements are restricted by an Interpol warrant, but has avoided extradition by remaining in France, Poland and Switzerland.