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Prosecutors renew demands for Polanski's return

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The contentious battle between the prosecution and defense in Roman Polanski's 33-year-old sex case escalated Tuesday with prosecutors accusing the Polanski side of using "half-truths, omissions and speculation" to paint a false picture of the conflict.

Two prosecutors who handle appellate matters for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office also adamantly denied they had hidden information from the defense and renewed their demand that Polanski be returned to the United States from Switzerland to face a court hearing and sentencing.

They said they have acted "with the utmost openness and integrity" and provided lawyers with discovery of all evidence.

Polanski's attorneys have been pressing for sentencing in absentia. The 76-year-old film director remains under house arrest at his chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, under 24-hour-a-day electronic monitoring.

Deputy District Attorneys Irene T. Wakabayashi and Phyllis C. Asayama argued in a 26-page brief that allowing Polanski to avoid extradition hurts the integrity of the judicial system more than revelations of alleged misconduct by a now-deceased judge who handled the case in the 1970s.

"The people are indeed concerned about justice and the integrity of the system, but do not view a just result as one that only rebukes a long since deceased jurist or former members of the district attorney's office," said the prosecution brief. "Justice also means imposing a long overdue judgment on a defendant who has flouted the system for over 30 years."

The prosecutors suggested their pursuit of the case after such a long time is "about ensuring that the public is not left with the belief that a defendant with seemingly endless resources is entitled to a justice that is different from criminals without those resources."

They also claimed an extradition treaty with Switzerland has been misinterpreted and said Polanski must be returned to Los Angeles under its provisions.

Polanski fled the U.S. in 1978 after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. He had served part of a 90-day period in prison ordered by the judge for a "diagnostic study." His departure was prompted by the judge's private statements that he planned to renege on the agreement that this would be Polanski's full sentence, according to documents filed in the case.

Polanski's attorneys returned to California's 2nd District Court of Appeal this month because of a judge's refusal to sentence the director in absentia and because of new testimony given secretly by the now-retired prosecutor in the case, Roger Gunson.

Gunson's testimony, which is sealed, is the newest subject of controversy in the case. It was taken in a conditional examination normally used to preserve the testimony of a witness who may not be available later.

A defense brief disclosed earlier that Gunson testified he was so concerned about Rittenband's inability to be fair to the prosecution that he drafted an application to disqualify the judge and intended to file it before Polanski entered his plea. He said he took it to two of his superiors who then conferred with the judge and refused to allow him to file the challenge.

Gunson confirmed this account in a signed declaration in January. Prosecutors claim that defense attorneys' indication of surprise when Gunson testified was false because they were given a copy of the declaration in January.

The defense claims prosecutors were aware of the misconduct since 2002, citing notes written by Deputy District Attorney Richard Doyle, who took over the case when Gunson retired. The prosecutors acknowledge that Doyle received a briefing from Gunson on the Polanski case, took notes "completely out of context with any pending motion" and put them away in a case file.

Deputy District Attorney David Walgren, now in charge of the case, said he searched through boxes of archives when he was preparing for Gunson's examination and found the notes at the bottom of a box. He said he waited for Doyle to return from a vacation and explain them, then turned them over to the defense.

The lawyers claimed there was no effort to hide the notes.

"The only deception propagated in this matter is that created by Polanski," the prosecutors said.

(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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los angeles, switzerland, entertainment
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