Unsealed Docs Show Judge Bailed on Plea in Polanski Child Rape

With new evidence of misconduct by the original judge in the case, Roman Polanski might be able to get back into the U.S. after all

The 1977 rape case that has been successfully keeping Roman Polanski out of the U.S. for decades has taken a turn in the director’s favor, as previously sealed testimony given by a Los Angeles County prosecutor in 2010 was opened by court order last week.

With possibly outgoing District Attorney and reform crusader George Gascón having decided not to oppose Polanski’s request to unseal the testimony, the Associated Press obtained a transcript of the former prosecutor’s statement on Sunday. It recounts how Polanski, then 49, drugged and raped 13-year-old Samantha Geimer in 1977 at Jack Nicholson’s L.A. home during a photoshoot set up by the director. Polanski gave Geimer champagne and a sedative before raping the child orally, vaginally, and anally. 

The testimonial delivered by Roger Gunson, a retired Deputy District Attorney and prosecutor in the Polanski trial, claims misconduct by the late Judge Laurence J. Rittenband. Gunson reveals that in August of 1977 he was denied his request that Rittenband be disqualified from the case by superiors in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. 

According to Deadline, his 20-page affidavit seeking recusal followed concerns that Rittenband was sourcing information and opinions from “all over the place”—including people not directly involved such as friends, media, and prosecutor David Wells, who had no official role in the proceedings.  

Gunson also maintains that Judge Rittenband reneged on a plea deal, assuring Polanski that his sentence would not include additional prison time following a mandated 90-day psychiatric examination in Chino State prison. As Deadline notes, Gunson had already made this assertion public in Marina Zenovich’s 2008 documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired

Gunson believed that Rittenband’s decision to go back on the deal, adding a potential sentence of between six months and 50 years, was influenced by the public’s response. According to Gunson’s testimony, Rittenband privately told lawyers that Polanski would only serve another 48 days in prison. Still, the fear of potential prison time sent the director packing for Europe in 1978 before his official hearing, from whence he never returned. 

Gunson also testifies that he was shocked by the leniency of Polanski’s treatment. By pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, Polanski escaped pending drug, rape, and sodomy charges. His psychiatric examination was also cut short due to a concern for his safety in prison. Perhaps, these decisions along with Rittenband’s phony plea promise constitute some of the “irregularities” in the case Gascón referred to after last week’s announcement of the unsealing. 

The transcript includes a lengthy description of failed attempts to resolve the longstanding case, involving a predetermined plea deal in which Polanski would not serve jail time. The director would be required to end his status as a fugitive from justice before a deal could be made. According to AP, Polanski’s victim appeared in L.A. court in 2017 to ask a judge to end the case, calling it a “40-year-sentence” imposed on both herself and the director.

Her request was denied.

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