Filmmaker Roman Polanski's arrest to spark extradition fight

Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:04pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Jason Rhodes and Bob Tourtellotte

ZURICH/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fugitive director Roman Polanski, whose tumultuous life has overshadowed his film career, was arrested this weekend in Zurich after U.S. authorities sought to have him extradited to face sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Polanski, 76, was taken into custody on Saturday after arriving in Switzerland to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival the next day.

Amid protests from his native France and from his former homeland of Poland, he now faces a court battle over extradition, and perhaps even a new trial in Los Angeles.

"Some form of justice will finally be done," said Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley. "He received a very, very, very lenient sentence back then, which would never be achievable under today's laws, and we'll see what the court wants to do in terms of the sentence and the parameters within the case settlement they had back then."

He did not say what sentence prosecutors would recommend.

Polanski fled the United States on the eve of his 1978 sentencing because he believed a judge might overrule his plea and put him in jail for 50 years. But a 2008 film documentary has prompted new questions of judicial misconduct, and his lawyers have tried unsuccessfully to get his case dismissed.

Polanski has avoided countries such as Britain that have extradition treaties with the United States. He has never returned to Los Angeles, where his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, was murdered by followers of Charles Manson in 1969.

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand was "stunned" to hear about the arrest, his office said, adding President Nicolas Sarkozy was following the case and hoped the matter could be resolved, allowing Polanski to return to his family.   Continued...

<p>File photo of film Director Roman Polanski attending a news conference to present his musical 'Tanz der Vampire' ('Dance of the Vampires') in Berlin October 11, 2006. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/files</p>