Judge rejects Polanski's bid to reopen sex case

Tue Feb 17, 2009 6:38pm EST
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By Dan Whitcomb and Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski lost a bid on Tuesday to dismiss his 30-year-old conviction for having sex with a minor when a Los Angeles judge refused to consider the request as long as the filmmaker was still a fugitive.

But Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza said he would be willing to reconsider his decision if Polanski, who fled the United States for France in 1978 after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with an underage girl, returned to a Los Angeles courtroom by May 7.

The 75-year-old director of such films as "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown, has tried to have his guilty plea thrown out on claims that the now-dead judge in the case was improperly coached by a prosecutor.

Those accusations gained public attention in the documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," in which the prosecutor, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney David Wells, spoke of his contact with the judge.

Prosecutors have long maintained that Polanski has no standing to reopen his case while he is a fugitive and Espinoza agreed. But the judge gave Polanski a small victory by suggesting in court that the filmmaker's claims could have merit.

"It is hard to contest that some of the conduct portrayed in film on that documentary was misconduct," Espinoza said.

Polanski was originally indicted on six charges, including rape, for having sex with a 13-year-old girl after plying her with champagne and drugs.

He insisted the sex was consensual but pleaded guilty to a single count of having sex with a minor, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.   Continued...