California court puts Polanski sex case on hold

Tue Jan 20, 2009 9:11pm EST
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By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California appeals court on Tuesday put on hold a hearing sought by Roman Polanski, at the request of the fugitive filmmaker, as he tries to dismiss his 30-year-old conviction for having sex with a minor.

Lawyers for Polanski, 75, asked the California 2nd District Court of Appeal for an emergency stay of the proceedings, which were set for Wednesday afternoon, while they seek to disqualify the entire Los Angeles County Court system from the case.

They are asking the appeals court to overturn a ruling by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge rejecting that motion, which would require the matter to be heard in another jurisdiction.

In granting the stay, the appeals court issued a terse, two-sentence ruling that did not explain the decision but directed prosecutors to file written arguments by January 30.

A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, which has opposed any further hearings for Polanski as long as he remains a fugitive, said prosecutors would comply with that.

Polanski, the Oscar-winning director of such films as "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown," fled the United States for France in 1978, before he could be sentenced for his guilty plea to having unlawful sex with an underage girl.

The filmmaker, who spent 42 days incarcerated for psychiatric evaluation, fled because he became convinced the judge intended to send him back to prison, contrary to a plea agreement he had made with prosecutors.

A citizen of his native France, Polanski cannot be extradited but faces arrest if he sets foot back on U.S. soil.   Continued...

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