January 9, 2018 / 9:42 PM / 3 years ago

Los Angeles prosecutor drops artist's sex accusation against Polanski

(Reuters) - Prosecutors in Los Angeles said on Tuesday they declined to pursue criminal charges against film director Roman Polanski after a woman said last fall that he molested her 43 years ago when she was 10 years old.

Film director Roman Polanski arrives at the Madeleine Church to attend a ceremony during a 'popular tribute' to late French singer and actor Johnny Hallyday in Paris, France, December 9, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office was investigating an accusation that Polanski, a long-time fugitive from the United States, committed lewd and lascivious acts with a child and sodomy with a minor, but did not proceed because it was beyond the statute of limitations, spokesman Greg Risling said.

The office pegged the date as Jan. 1, 1975 and declined to identify Polanski’s accuser. The prosecutor opened the investigation in December.

The accuser, who identified herself online as artist Marianne Barnard, accused Polanski, now 84, in October of having molested her when he photographed her as a naked 10-year-old under an open fur coat in a photo shoot arranged by her mother.

“After it happened, I didn’t say anything to anyone,” Barnard said in a post on thepetition.com, where she is seeking signatures urging that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revoke Polanski’s membership.

Polanski’s lawyer, Harland Braun, said the incident never happened, adding that because police and prosecutors have stopped looking into the matter, he is pursuing his own investigation in an effort to clear his client.

“We have what we believe is a totally fictitious case against Mr. Polanski,” said Braun.

Polanski in 1977 admitted to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles and spent 42 days in pre-trial custody. He fled the United States the following year, fearing a plea bargain with prosecutors would be overruled and that he would get a lengthy prison term.

In November, Swiss prosecutors dropped an investigation of him after finding that the country’s statute of limitations did not allow pursuing allegations by a former German actress and model that he raped her in 1972 when she was 15 years old.

Polanski won an Academy Award in 2003 for directing “The Pianist.”

(This version of the story was corrected to say accusation instead of charge in paragraph two; corrects to make clear Polanski is member of Academy not a board member, paragraph five)

Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; editing by Grant McCool

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