Court urges misconduct probe into Polanski case

Mon Dec 21, 2009 4:38pm EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California appeals court on Monday denied a bid to dismiss a 32-year-old unlawful sex charge against director Roman Polanski but in strong language urged prosecutors to investigate claims of misconduct in the handling of the case.

Polanski remains under house arrest in Switzerland, facing extradition to the United States where he could be sentenced for pleading guilty to sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

In its ruling, the California Second District Court of Appeal denied an attempt by defense attorneys to have the charge dismissed outright or sent back to a lower court to hear evidence of judicial and prosecutorial wrongdoing.

But the three-judge panel said evidence and arguments presented by Polanski's attorneys did raise "extremely serious allegations" and urged prosecutors to "take steps to investigate and to respond to the claims."

Among errors, defense attorneys have alleged the original judge agreed to one sentence and then improperly sought another and was unduly concerned about the public response and spoke to the media when he should not have. The defense also said the judge considered matters that happened outside the court when deciding upon sentencing.

In its 70-page ruling, the court said there is "substantial probability" any court looking into the allegations would conclude "many, if not all, are true" and that if true, they "demonstrate malfeasance ... and unethical conduct."

A spokesman for Polanski's Los Angeles-based attorneys said they would have no comment and a representative for prosecutors was not immediately available.

Los Angeles defense attorney Steve Cron, who is not associated with either party, said the appellate panel's language means prosecutors should at least look at the allegations of judicial misconduct to see if they merit changes in Polanski's status.   Continued...

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