February 3, 2009 / 2:56 AM / 10 years ago

Polanski loses bid to have L.A. judges removed

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California appeals court on Monday rejected a bid by fugitive filmmaker Roman Polanski to disqualify the entire Los Angeles County court system from hearing his motion for dismissal of a 30-year-old conviction for having sex with a minor.

Director Roman Polanski reacts during a news conference to present his musical "Tanz der Vampire" ('Dance of the Vampires') in Oberhausen September 29, 2008. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

In doing so, the California 2nd District Court of Appeal upheld a ruling by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge that he must make his case for dismissal of the conviction before the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Polanski, the Oscar-winning director of such films as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown,” pleaded guilty in 1978 to having unlawful sex with a minor.

He fled the United States for France before he could be sentenced and as a citizen of that country cannot be extradited. He faces arrest if he sets foot back on U.S. soil.

Polanski, 75, is seeking to have that conviction thrown out, claiming that the judge in the case, who has since died, was improperly coached by a deputy district attorney ahead of sentencing.

Those allegations gained public attention a year ago in the documentary “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” in which the prosecutor spoke of his contact with the judge.

The appeals court offered no explanation in its one-page order denying Polanski’s request to have the Los Angeles County Court system removed from the case.

Polanski was originally indicted on six charges, including rape, for having sex with a 13-year-old girl after plying her with champagne and drugs.

He insisted the sex was consensual but pleaded guilty to a single count of having sex with a minor, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Vilified in the U.S. media at the time, Polanski has earned a measure of sympathy in Hollywood and won an Academy Award in 2003 for directing the Holocaust drama “The Pianist.”

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has opposed any further hearings for Polanski as long as he remains a fugitive.

The filmmaker, who spent 42 days incarcerated for psychiatric evaluation, says he fled because he became convinced the judge intended to send him back to prison, contrary to a plea agreement he had made with prosecutors.

Editing by Mohammad Zargham

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