Lawyers for film director Roman Polanski, a fugitive for 30 years in a notorious sex case involving a 13-year-old girl, filed a request to dismiss the charge against him because of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct.
The motion filed on Tuesday alleges that a documentary about the filmmaker released this year revealed “a pattern of misconduct and improper communications” between the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office and the judge in Polanski’s case.
“This case serves as a classic example of how our justice system can be abused, and defendants’ rights trampled, by an unholy alliance between courts and criminal prosecutors,” a statement from attorneys Chad Hummel and Brad Dalton said.
Dalton is the son of attorney Doug Dalton, who represented Polanski in the original case.
The Polish-born Polanski, 75, has been living in self-imposed exile in France since fleeing the US in 1978 after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles.
He was initially indicted on six felony counts and faced up to life in prison. Instead, he pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and five other counts were dismissed.
Polanski, who had already been incarcerated for a psychological diagnosis for 42 days, skipped sentencing that would have sent him back to prison, and fled to France. The judge issued a warrant for his arrest that is still in effect.
The maximum sentence was 50 years, although prosecutors had said at the time that the typical sentence was 16 months to three years in prison.
Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for District Attorney Steve Cooley, said her office had not been served with the motion and heard about it only through media reports. She said the office could not take a position until they see the legal papers.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Jan. 21 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Polanski, the director of Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby, has continued to direct films while in exile, including the 2002 Holocaust drama The Pianist, for which he won the Academy Award for best director.
The woman with whom Polanski admitted having sex has said that she wants the charge dropped and that Polanski should be allowed to return to the US.
The new effort to wipe out the charge comes after an HBO documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, in which the man who prosecuted Polanski, retired Deputy District Attorney Roger Gunson, said that if he had been in Polanski’s position, he also would have fled the country.
The documentary also portrayed the late Superior Court Judge Laurence Rittenband as a publicity hound who held news conferences and engaged in extrajudicial meetings about the case.