Swiss study California ruling on Polanski, but decline to say when they’ll rule on extradition

By Bradley S. Klapper, AP
Monday, April 26, 2010

Swiss take time on Polanski extradition decision

GENEVA — Swiss authorities indicated further delays Monday on a decision to extradite Roman Polanski, as they began studying last week’s California court ruling to deny the director sentencing in absentia.

Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli confirmed that Switzerland received an official copy of the ruling that was seen as a crucial loss in Polanski’s battle to avoid being returned to Los Angeles for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl.

Swiss officials have been waiting for clarity from the United States about whether the 76-year-old filmmaker needs to appear before a U.S. court to be sentenced. While that question appeared largely solved, barring a reversal from California’s Supreme Court, Galli dampened expectations of an imminent decision from Switzerland.

“We’ve said that we will wait for this decision to ensure that our proceedings are harmonized with those in the United States,” Galli told The Associated Press. “That doesn’t mean an extradition decision will now be immediately sent out.”

Swiss authorities arrested Polanski exactly seven months ago as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award at a film festival. The Oscar-winning director of “Rosemary’s Baby,” ”Chinatown” and “The Pianist” was imprisoned for more than two months before being transferred on $4.5 million bail to house arrest at his Alpine chalet in the luxury resort of Gstaad.

Polanski’s lawyers have argued that he shouldn’t have to be present in California to be sentenced on one count of unlawful sexual intercourse, saying he should be let off with time served. Even a lenient prison term handed down in absentia could mean that Polanski avoids extradition, because the Swiss won’t hand him over unless he faces at least six months behind bars.

The California 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected Polanski’s motion on Thursday without giving an opinion.

Swiss legal experts now believe that Polanski will be extradited to Los Angeles, even if months of further legal wrangling await. The director can start a new round of appeals in the Swiss courts if the government decides to extradite him.

Polanski was initially accused of raping the girl after plying her with champagne and a Quaalude pill during a 1977 modeling shoot. He was indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molestation and sodomy, but he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse.

In exchange, the judge agreed to drop the remaining charges and sent him to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. The evaluator released Polanski after 42 days, but the judge said he was going to send him back to serve out the remaining time.

Polanski then fled the U.S. on Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was to be formally sentenced. He has lived since in France, which does not extradite its citizens.

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