Polanski asks LA judge to sentence him in absentia

Wed Jan 6, 2010 8:25pm EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fugitive film director Roman Polanski asked a Los Angeles judge on Wednesday to sentence him in his absence on a 1977 charge of having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Judge Peter Espinoza set a January 22 date for a full hearing on the request, made by Polanski in a notarized document signed December 26 in Switzerland and submitted by the Oscar-winning director's Los Angeles-based lawyer, Chad Hummel.

But prosecutors, who have long sought to bring Polanski back to Los Angeles, said they would oppose any bid to sentence him until he turns up physically in court.

Polanski, 76, who won an Oscar in 2002 for "The Pianist", is under house arrest at his villa in the ski resort of Gstaad, Switzerland, fighting extradition to the United States. He was arrested in Switzerland in September on a U.S. warrant.

He fled the United States in 1978 after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor. Polanski has said he feared the judge in the case, who has since died, was going to renege on an agreement to sentence him to the 42 days he had already served behind bars.

The dual Polish-French national has spent most of the past 30 years living and working in France, which has no extradition treaty with the United States covering the crime.

Wednesday's hearing followed a suggestion by a California appeals court last month that sentencing Polanski in absentia could be one way to resolve the decades-long battle to bring him to justice.

But prosecutor David Walgren said Polanski should come back to California and not continue to fight the case "from the comfort of his Swiss chalet in the Alps."   Continued...