NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oscar-winning movie director Roman Polanski should not have to serve time in prison for unlawfully having sex with a 13-year-old girl 30 years ago, the victim now says.
The French-Polish filmmaker fled the United States to France in 1978 before he was sentenced and Samantha Geimer, now 45 years old with three sons, said in an interview she wants the case resolved.
“I don’t think he’s a danger to society,” said Geimer, who settled a confidential civil suit with Polanski more than 10 years ago. “I don’t think he needs to be locked up forever and no one has ever come out ever besides me and accused him of anything.”
A documentary, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and will air on U.S. cable channel HBO on Monday, throws the spotlight on the case.
“It was all so overwhelming,” said Geimer, who lives in Hawaii and works as a personal assistant and bookkeeper. “I think we just wanted it to be over and sending him to jail was not going to help it be over.
“What happened that night, it’s hard to believe, but it paled in comparison to what happened to me in the next year of my life,” she said of the media frenzy surrounding the trial, adding that she was relieved when Polanski fled because the media attention died down.
The filmmaker, now 74, was charged with several counts, including rape by use of drugs, but in a deal pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, a crime committed during a photo session with Geimer. He bolted to France, where he is a citizen and cannot be extradited by the United States, before he was sentenced.
Polanski, who directed “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown,” already had spent 42 days in a prison for a psychiatric evaluation before his sentencing.
“I think he’s sorry, I think he knows it was wrong,” Geimer said. “He should have been given time served ... he needs to make a deal to be treated fairly when he gets back here and with his celebrity I think that’s going to be hard.”
At the time of the court case, psychiatric experts did not consider Polanski a sexual predator and both the defense and prosecution believed probation would be sufficient punishment.
Documentary director Marina Zenovich tracked down Polanski’s lawyer, Geimer, her attorney, law enforcement officials, film industry colleagues and reporters who covered the case, among others to dig deeper into the case.
They all revealed troubling behavior by the judge, now deceased, who was so driven by media coverage that he kept a scrapbook of clippings. The film implied that Polanski fled because he feared unfair treatment amid the media frenzy.
Polanski, whose pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, was murdered by followers of Charles Manson in 1969, rebuilt his life and career in France and in 2003 won a best director Oscar for “The Pianist.”
He declined to be interviewed by Zenovich for the documentary, which used archival interview footage.
“It was 30 years ago now,” said Geimer, adding that she had spoken about it so often she was emotionally detached. “It’s an unpleasant memory ... (but) I can live with it.”
Editing by Mark Egan and Bill Trott