December 3, 2008 / 12:43 AM / in 9 years

Polanski seeks dismissal of decades-old sex charge

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar-winning film director and fugitive Roman Polanski asked a Los Angeles court on Tuesday to dismiss a 30-year-old charge of unlawful sex with a minor, his lawyers said.

<p>Director Roman Polanski reacts during a news conference in Oberhausen, Germany, September 29, 2008. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender</p>

Polanski, 75, fled the United States in 1978 to avoid serving a prison sentence after entering a guilty plea on charges of having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

The film director’s lawyers said they had new evidence, sparked by a documentary film earlier this year, that revealed “judicial and prosecutorial misconduct ... so distorted the legal process that the interests of justice can only be served with complete dismissal of the case.”

Polanski, who directed movie classics such as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown,” has French citizenship and cannot be extradited to the United States.

Vilified by the U.S. media at the time, the French-Polish filmmaker has never returned to the United States despite winning a best director Oscar in 2003 for the World War Two movie “The Pianist.”

A new team of lawyers representing Polanski filed a formal request on Tuesday for dismissal of the criminal case with Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Polanski was originally charged with several counts, including rape by use of drugs. But in a plea deal, he pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor.

He had already spent 42 days in a California prison for a psychiatric evaluation but then fled the United States before being sentenced.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office said it had not seen the request for dismissal.

“We haven’t seen what was filed, and as far as we’re concerned Mr. Polanski has pleaded guilty and fled the court’s jurisdiction prior to when he was sentenced. As far as we’re concerned it is a matter between Mr. Polanski and the court,” spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons told Reuters.

Gibbons said Polanski was a fugitive and that there was still a warrant out for his arrest.

DOCUMENTARY SPARKS INTEREST

Interest in the Polanski case was revived by a documentary “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” that was first shown at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

The documentary tracked down Polanski’s lawyer in the 1978 case, the victim and her lawyer, reporters and film industry colleagues who spoke of troubling behavior by the judge, who has since died. Polanski declined to be interviewed.

Samantha Geimer, the victim who is now in her 40s, has three sons and lives in Hawaii, said in a separate interview in June that Polanski should not have to serve time in prison and that she did not feel he was a danger to society.

“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,” Geimer said.

Polanski’s new legal team, Chad Hummel and Bart Dalton, said in a statement the documentary had revealed a “pattern of misconduct and improper communications” between the court and prosecutors.

Polanski was the toast of Hollywood in the late 1960s and early 1970s for his avant garde movies and was the object of sympathy after his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered in Los Angeles in 1969 by followers of Charles Manson.

Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Eric Beech

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