LA judge will not sentence Polanski in absentia

Fri Jan 22, 2010 6:21pm EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Los Angeles judge on Friday rejected a request by fugitive film director Roman Polanski to be sentenced in his absence for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Judge Peter Espinoza said his decision was firm and that the Oscar-winning filmmaker should return to California to face sentencing.

Polanski, 76, fled California in 1978 and was arrested in September in Switzerland. He is currently under house arrest in Gstaad fighting extradition to the United States.

Polanski formally asked to be sentenced in his absence earlier this month. The victim in the case supported his request, but Los Angeles prosecutors opposed the move.

They argued that Polanski should not be allowed to "dictate" his case from afar and should not be treated differently because he is a celebrity.

"This convicted felon, this child rapist, must surrender to the court," prosecutor David Walgren told the hearing on Friday.

Polanski, who won an Oscar in 2002 for "The Pianist," pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor in 1977 but skipped bail and fled to France before being sentenced.

The French-Polish national later said he feared the judge would renege on a plea agreement limiting his punishment to the 42 days he had spent behind bars for psychiatric evaluation.   Continued...