Polanski loses bid to be sentenced in absentia

Fri Apr 23, 2010 5:41am EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar-winning film director Roman Polanski lost his latest bid on Thursday to be sentenced while outside the United States for having unlawful sex with a minor more than three decades ago.

Affirming the decision of a Los Angeles judge in January, a state appeals court ruled the fugitive filmmaker, 76, must return to California before he can be sentenced and bring his 33-year-long legal saga to a close.

The director of such film classics as "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby" fled the United States for his native France in 1978 and is now fighting extradition from Switzerland.

The appellate panel found Polanski "failed to demonstrate" that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza lacked the discretion to refuse his request to remain abroad while the case against him was concluded.

A spokeswoman for Polanski's lawyers, Sarah Ingram, told Reuters they had no comment on whether there would be further appeals. A California law professor, Laurie Levenson, who has followed the case closely, said Polanski's attorneys could petition the state's Supreme Court, but their chances "would be a real long shot."

Denial of his appeal to be sentenced in absentia came shortly after the same court rejected a separate petition filed by the woman who was his victim at age 13 to have the case dismissed altogether.

Samantha Geimer, now in her 40s and a mother of three living quietly in Hawaii, has long sought to put the protracted court battle to rest, arguing that she has become victimized all over again by the efforts of prosecutors to bring Polanski to justice.

YEARS AS A FUGITIVE   Continued...