Fugitive filmmaker Polanski seeks U.S. case moved

Tue Jan 6, 2009 7:24pm EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar-winning fugitive filmmaker Roman Polanski wants to disqualify the entire Los Angeles County court system from handling the sexual misconduct case that led him to flee the United States for France three decades ago.

Lawyers for the 75-year-old director filed court papers late Monday requesting that the matter be referred to the California Judicial Council for "selection of an impartial, out-of-county judicial officer."

The latest legal move comes a month after Polanski's lawyers filed a motion seeking to dismiss the case altogether, citing "extraordinary new evidence" of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct.

A hearing on the motion to drop the case is set for January 21, but Polanski's lawyers have said he has no plans to return for the proceeding. The District Attorney's Office filed its formal response Tuesday opposing a dismissal.

Polanski, an Academy Award winner in 2003 for directing the Holocaust drama "The Pianist," fled the United States in 1978 as he was about to be sentenced for his guilty plea on charges of having unlawful sex with an underage girl.

A citizen of his native France, Polanski cannot be extradited but faces arrest as a fugitive from justice the moment he sets foot back on U.S. soil.

Polanski's bid to dismiss the matter stems from claims that the now-dead Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in the case was improperly coached by a deputy district attorney, David Wells, since retired, ahead of sentencing.


<p>Director Roman Polanski is pictured during a news conference to present his musical 'Tanz der Vampire' ('Dance of the Vampires') in Oberhausen, Germany in this September 29, 2008 file photo.REUTERS/Ina Fassbender/Files (GERMANY)</p>