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Standing Ovation for Roman Polanski in Zurich

Roman Polanski has finally picked up his Lifetime Achievement Award at the Zurich Film Festival, two years after his ill-fated trip when he was arrested on a U.S. extradition warrant. He got a standing ovation. He quipped, ""Better late than never."

He has a new film, Carnage, that is being touted as his best film since The Pianist. And in a documentary filmed during his house arrest, he apologized to the woman (then age 13) in the infamous Los Angeles case:

"She is a double victim: my victim and a victim of the press," the Oscar-winning director says near the end of Laurent Bouzereau's Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir.

He also thanked the Swiss prison guards who watched over him during his house arrest.

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Roman Polanski Wins European Best Picture Award

Roman Polanksi's "The Ghostwriter" has won the award for Best Picture and Best Director at the European Film Awards, held in Estonia. It won in six of its seven nominated categories.

Nominated in seven categories, the movie won the best director prize, best actor for Ewan McGregor, and best screenwriter went jointly to Robert Harris and Polanski.

Polanski gave an acceptance speech -- "through a Skype connection from an unknown location." Why?

[H]e still faces an Interpol warrant in 188 countries. Most European nations, including Estonia, have an extradition treaty with the United States.

[More...]

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Fingerpointing in Polanski Case Between DOJ and LA Prosecutors

The Swiss asked for the sealed transcripts of former district attorney in the Roman Polanski case. DOJ says it consulted with the LA District Attorney's office and denied the request. It was the denial that prevented the Swiss from getting to the heart of the issue: did the judge intend for Polanski only to serve 42 days? If so, then extradition isn't allowed under the treaty. The Swiss Statement denying extradition said:

The Swiss government said it had sought confidential testimony given Jan. 26 by Roger Gunson, the Los Angeles attorney in charge of the original prosecution against Polanski. The United States rejected the request.

The LA District Attorney's office told the judge in May the Swiss never made the request. Now they say they were never notified by DOJ that one had been made.

District attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said Wednesday that Los Angeles prosecutors were never notified of the request. But the Justice Department said Thursday the Los Angeles District Attorney's office was fully informed and approved the denial.

[More...]

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LA Judge Deals Another Blow to Roman Polanski

At a hearing in Los Angeles yesterday, Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza denied Roman Polanski's motion to unseal the testimony of the original case prosecutor so it could be reviewed by the Swiss in deciding whether prosecutors made false allegations in the extradition request.

Polanski's attorneys argue that the issue is important, in part, because the United States' extradition treaty with Switzerland allows the extradition of a defendant only if the remaining time still to be served is more than six months. They note that an affidavit by L.A. County Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren that was given to Swiss authorities does not say Polanski's diagnostic testing was meant to serve as his full prison term.

"This affidavit does not provide the facts, and Mr. Gunson's testimony proves that," attorney Chad S. Hummel said in court Monday.

LA prosecutors argued the extradition request was accurate, citing the fact that it was reviewed by the Department of Justice. When did federal prosecutors become judges? Their view is one that can be taken into account, but it should be the Judge's call.

Prosecutors say Polanski faces up to two years when sentenced. They are arguing about the difference between 48 days (the maximum number of days between the 42 Polanski served and the 90 the judge said he intended to impose) and two years, in a case over 30 years old where the defendant is 76 years old and has been exiled from the U.S. for decades and forced to live under house arrest in Switzerland for months. Give it up already. What are these proceedings, which the victim opposes, costing cash-strapped California? Enough is enough. Free Roman.

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Roman Polanski Breaks Silence, Issues Statement

Roman Polanski has broken his silence and issued a statement concerning his extradition. It's published in French in a magazine called La Regle du Jeu. The English translation is here. I've uploaded it here.

A hearing will be held Monday on whether to unseal the sworn statement of the former DA on the case, Roger Gunson, now retired. [More...]

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Appeals Court Rejects Roman Polanski's Bid Over New Evidence of Judicial Misconduct

California's Second Appellate District has denied Roman Polanski's petition for writ of mandate. He filed the petition in March, seeking a sentence of time served in his 1977 sex case, based on new evidence of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct contained in previously undisclosed sealed transcripts of improper communications between the Judge and prosecutors. He also sought to have the new transcripts disclosed to the Swiss.

Also today, the court rejected a bid by the victim to dismiss the case.

The order in Polanski's case reads: (obtained from Court docket): [More...]

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Swiss Put Polanski Extradition on Hold Pending CA Ruling

The spokesman for the Swiss Ministry today told the Associated Press that Switzerland will not act on the extradition request for Roman Polanski until a California appeals court rules on his appeal of the trial court's denial of his motion to be sentenced in absentia.

"The Justice Ministry will decide on the extradition only after the California Court of Appeal has decided whether to hold proceedings in absentia," Galli said. "This action allows the extradition process to adapt to the US proceedings."

The prosecution filed its brief yesterday urging Polanski's return. I haven't found a copy of either Polanski or the state's latest briefs anywhere, so I can't say which is stronger. But I continue to believe Polanski is getting a very raw deal here and the case should be dismissed due to the improper conduct of the judge. The newly discovered notes of DA Gunson confirm the Judge promised no more than 90 days, and the extradition treaty doesn't apply to such short sentences. [More...]

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Roman Polanski Files New Appeal, More Misconduct Allegations

Lawyers for Roman Polanski filed a new appeal in the California Appeals Court today. It cites previously undisclosed sealed transcripts of improper communications between the Judge and prosecutors.

The 68-page petition asks the California Court of Appeals for the Second District, in Los Angeles, to act on an emergency basis. It argues, among other things, that the court should free Mr. Polanski by imposing a sentence for time served, or at least make the sealed testimony alleging wrongdoing available to Swiss authorities.

[More...]

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Phil Spector Appeals Murder Conviction

Phil Spector's lawyers have filed their opening brief in the appeal of his murder conviction.

[T]hey focused on a judge's decision to allow testimony from five women who claimed Spector menaced them with firearms in the decades leading up to Lana Clarkson's shooting.

Those accounts, which portrayed Spector as a violent misogynist, became "the heart of the state's case, the sine qua non of its efforts to gain a conviction" and amounted to impermissible character testimony, the lawyers wrote.

For one thing, while the judge instructed the jury the testimony could not be taken as propensity to commit a crime, [More...]

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Roman Polanski Wins "Best Director" Award at Berlin Film Festival

Roman Polanski has been awarded the Silver Bear for best director at the Berlin Film Festival for his new political thriller, The Ghost Writer. It's a political thriller, starring Pierce Brosnan as a prime minister accused of war crimes. It's based on the 2007 Robert Harris book “The Ghost.”

Still under house arrest in Switzerland, Polanski was unable to accept the award in person.

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Roman Polanski: Should the Swiss Deny Extradition?

Now that the Judge has refused Roman Polanski's request to be sentenced in absentia, the Swiss will act on the extradition request. Can they refuse it? Do they have to refuse it as being legally insufficient? What is Polanski's best argument?

Roman Polanski's lawyers say LA prosecutors misled the Swiss in making the request for Roman's extradition by omitting to inform them that Polanski was not facing a sentence of a year or more upon his return.

Lawyers for Mr. Polanski have argued that the judge who originally handled the case, Laurence J. Rittenband, who has since died, never intended to jail him for more than 90 days. They contend that a sentence that short would not qualify Mr. Polanski, who has been held in Switzerland since September, for extradition to the United States under a treaty between the two countries.

...Action by the Swiss is anticipated within weeks, although Mr. Polanski’s lawyers have said in court that officials in Switzerland had been waiting for more clarity about Mr. Polanski’s possible sentence.

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Judge Denies Polanski Request to Be Sentenced in Absentia

Update: Via Variety, Polanski's lawyer says he will appeal denial to state appeals court. Background on statute at issue for today's hearing is here.

Update: Via Twitter, Judge denies Polanski's request. So he goes back to the appeals court now which suggested it in the first place? First to report it on Twitter: Royal Oakes. Second: Steve Futterman of CBS News. (I was third, but I waited for confirmation.) Now there are a ton of tweets, but none with details yet as to reasons. The web will be best for those.

The hearing in LA on Roman Polanski's request to be sentenced in absentia is underway. Via Twitter, 10 minutes ago from CBS reporter Steve Fetterman: "It appears from comments in court that judge is denying polanski request to be sentenced in absentia." No further details yet.

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New Revelation in Polanksi Sentencing in Absentia Pleading

Lawyers for the victim in Roman Polanski's 1977 case released a pleading it will file tomorrow in support of Polanski's request to be sentenced in absentia and to be sentenced to time served.

The victim's lawyer, Lawrence Silver, in joining Polanski's request, includes this new information:

In a new revelation, Silver wrote in his legal filing that he witnessed [Judge]Rittenband say in his chambers that no other incarceration would be imposed, only to then renege on his promise and threaten to send Polanski to an indeterminate prison sentence. Polanski fled the country soon after.

Polanski's lawyers have also filed a brief saying the prosecutors misled the Swiss in seeking his extradition warrant.

The hearing will be held Friday. Background is here.

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DA Objects To Roman Polanski's Request for Sentencing in Absentia

In affirming the denial of Roman Polanski's motion to dismiss the criminal charges against him last month, the California Appeals Court noted that Section 1173 of the California Penal Code allows for felony sentencing in absentia. The pertinent part of the statute reads (via Lexis.com):

If the conviction is for a felony, the defendant shall be personally present when judgment is pronounced against him or her, unless the defendant, in open court and on the record, or in a notarized writing, requests that judgment be pronounced against him or her in his or her absence, and that he or she be represented by an attorney when judgment is pronounced, and the court approves his or her absence during the pronouncement of judgment...

The Court said "Based on the oral arguments of counsel, this court would not expect any objection to be made if Polanski should request to be sentenced in absentia."

Polanski then moved to be sentenced in absentia. Today, the L.A. prosecutor objected. A hearing is set for next week. I haven't found a copy of the prosecutor's response, but I also haven't seen any California cases that uphold the denial of a defendant's request because of an objection from the prosecutor. While the decision is up to the judge, I think the prosecutor is on shaky ground. Here's why: [More...]

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Roman Polanski Asks to Be Sentenced in Absentia

Taking the California Court of Appeals suggestion, Director Roman Polanski has filed a formal request with the court in Los Angeles to be sentenced in absentia on his 1977 guilty plea to to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. The Court of Appeals decision (distilled here) said:

Without returning to the United States or dropping his battle against extradition, Polanski may, through counsel, request that the trial court
conduct the never-yet-held sentencing hearing in absentia pursuant to section 1193. If the trial court approves this request, then Polanski, through his counsel, will be able to obtain the evidentiary hearing that is so urgently required to establish the facts of what occurred in 1977 and 1978. The trial judge now presiding over the matter, Judge Espinoza, has already indicated
that at a sentencing hearing Polanski would be able to fully litigate the allegations of misconduct and a prior pledge by Judge Rittenband as to Polanski’s punishment.

Smart move, in my view. [More...]

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