LA judge rejects Polanski bid to dismiss sex case

Thu May 7, 2009 6:13pm EDT
 
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Los Angeles judge on Thursday formally rejected an attempt by fugitive film director Roman Polanski to have a 1978 sex case against him dismissed because of misconduct by prosecutors.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza said he could not consider the case unless Polanski, who fled the United States for France after pleading guilty to rape, showed up in his court.

Lawyers for the Oscar-winning director made clear this week that Polanski would not return to the United States to contest his conviction in person because he would be immediately arrested. He cannot be extradited from France.

The lawyers have said they will appeal Espinoza's ruling on constitutional grounds, alleging that misconduct by the original prosecutors and the judge had deprived Polanski of his right to a fair hearing.

Polanski had sought to have his 1978 guilty plea to having sex with a 13-year-old girl thrown out on the grounds that the judge at the time was improperly coached by a prosecutor.

Espinoza said in February that there was "substantial misconduct" in the original case against Polanski and gave him until May 7 to turn up in his court to pursue the matter. Polanski did not appear.

The director of "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" fled to France in the 1970s because he was convinced the judge in the case intended to send him to prison despite a plea agreement with prosecutors.

He has never set foot on U.S. soil since, even when he was awarded a best director Oscar for the 2002 Holocaust movie "The Pianist."   Continued...