Fugitive filmmaker Polanski loses bid to move case

Fri Jan 9, 2009 9:56pm EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fugitive filmmaker Roman Polanski on Friday lost his bid to disqualify the Los Angeles County court system from considering his motion to dismiss a 30-year-old charge of unlawful sex with a minor.

Lawyers for the Oscar-winning director behind such classics as "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" filed court papers this week requesting the case be referred to the California Judicial Council for "selection of an impartial, out-of-county" judge.

But Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza ruled the defense motion "discloses no legal grounds for disqualification" and was therefore "ordered stricken."

Polanski's lawyers filed a separate motion in December seeking to dismiss the 30-year-old case altogether, citing "extraordinary new evidence" of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct.

A hearing on that motion 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 on Tuesday opposing a dismissal.

Polanski, 75, an Academy Award winner in 2003 for directing the Holocaust drama "The Pianist," fled the United States for France in 1978 as he was about to be sentenced for his guilty plea on charges of having unlawful sex with an underage girl.

He already had spent 42 days incarcerated for psychiatric evaluation and became convinced the judge intended to send him back to prison, contrary to the plea deal he had reached.

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

<p>Polish director Roman Polanski attends a news conference for the film "Chacun son Cinema" at the 60th Cannes Film Festival, May 20, 2007. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier</p>