Roman Polanski Rep Says Justice Has Already Been Served

Polanski's rep says the statutory rape case is more complex than you'd think.

September 28, 2009, 4:47 AM

Sept. 29, 2009 — -- Lawyers for Oscar-winning directorRoman Polanski filed a motion in court today asking that he be released from Swiss custody, according to the Associated Press.

Polanski remains in a Swiss jail as the debate about his Saturday arrest rages on.

Today's motion is likely the first step in the battle to avoid extradition to the United States for the 1977 statutory rape case.

"The entire narrative surrounding this situation over the last 32 years has been wrought with complications and inconsistencies," Jeff Berg, Polanski's Hollywood representative, told "Good Morning America" today.

Polanski's arrest at the Zurich airport came at the request of a U.S. warrant on a 31-year-old statutory rape charge. Berg and Polanski's lawyers have expressed shock that he was taken into custody in a country he is known to frequent, even owning a chalet there.

Berg called the timing of Polanski's arrest, which occurred the same day he was to have received an award at the Zurich Film Festival, "one of many cruel ironies" that Polanski has faced in his life.

Polanski's critics have seemed incredulous that Hollywood heavyweights like producer Harvey Weinstein are pleading for the freedom of a man convicted of intercourse with a 13-year-old girl, but Berg said he and Polanski's lawyers believe justice has already been served.

Polanski took a deal and pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse and served 42 days in a California jail where he was psychologically evaluated. He has admitted he had sex with 13-year-old Samantha Geimer after plying her with champagne and Quaaludes at the home of actor Jack Nicholson.

"Roman was incarcerated. Roman did time in a state prison," Berg said. "My feeling to his critics is you have to look at a much more complex situation surrounding this case."

Now in her 40s, Geimer has said she forgives Polanski and doesn't think he should face further jail time.

Berg said Polanski fled the country in 1978 only after learning during a discussion with the district attorney outside a Los Angeles courtroom that the judge in his case was preparing to sentence him to a long prison term despite the plea deal.

Polanski's rights were violated, Berg said, and the case was "plagued with prosecutorial and judicial misconduct."

And, he pointed out, it's not like Polanski has been hiding out for the last three decades. He's traveled freely around Europe and continued to make movies, including 2002's "The Pianist," for which he won the 2003 Academy Award for best director.

Though he could not travel to the United States to accept the award without risking arrest, he received a standing ovation from many in the audience.

"Roman was in Switzerland all summer," Berg said. "He does not live in the shadows."

Berg said he has spoken to Polanski's wife, actress Emmanuelle Seigner, who told him that "his voice was strong and he's looking to moving forward."

Debate Over Polanski's Arrest Polarizes Legal Community

Hollywood's admiration of Polanski seems not to have waned since his arrest.

"We're calling on every filmmaker we can to help fix this terrible situation," producer Harvery Weinstein said in a statement.

Zurich Film Festival judge Debra Winger also voiced her support, saying, "We stand by and await his release and his next master work."

But legal expert and child advocate Wendy Murphy questioned why Hollywood is standing by an admitted criminal.

"It's really hard to understand why anyone wouldn't appreciate the need for a man who has basically admitted to raping a child, shouldn't be returned to this country to basically face justice," she said. "No matter how much time has passed, no matter how much you like the guy's movies, he did something really bad."

But a California law professor wondered why the effort to arrest Polanski was a priority now, after more than three decades.

"This type of expense of valuable resources, both financial and some political chips that are being cashed in, really doesn't make any sense unless you're talking about a child predator" with repeated predatory behaviors, UCLA law professor Peter Arenella told today.

Arenella, who has no connection to the Polanski case, said he's watching it closely and trying to read between the lines to figure out why a three-decade-old statutory rape conviction was worth an international manhunt.

While Arenella was quick to note that he did not condone Polanski's actions, being a father to daughters himself, he questioned why Polanski suddenly became such an object of interest for the Los Angeles district attorney's office at a time when the state of California is particularly cash-strapped.

"If a prospector was thinking about justice ... and going after a one-time offender from 30 years ago involving statutory rape ... [it] doesn't seem to make a lot of sense on its own merits," he said. "That suggests something else going on here that the public doesn't know about."

But an official familiar with the case had little sympathy for Polanski, pointing out that he raped a 13-year-old girl, pleaded guilty to a charge and then chose not to face imposition of whatever sentence a court was going to set. As the offender, the source said, Polanksi does not get to determine his punishment -- the legal system does.

French Minister Condemns Polanski Arrest

Polanski, who has had small, often uncredited roles in his films, rose to fame in the 1960s and '70s as the director of such movies as 1968's "Rosemary's Baby" and 1974's "Chinatown." He was briefly married to actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered, along with the couple's unborn son, in 1969 by a group of Charles Manson followers.

The French culture minister has denounced the United States for the arrest of Polanski, saying it is a "terrible thing and very unfair."

"Seeing him alone, imprisoned while he was heading to an event that was due to offer him praise and recognition is awful. He was trapped," French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said at a news conference Sunday. "In the same way there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America, that has just shown its face."

Mitterrand said French President Nicholas Sarkozy is paying close attention to the case and that the French consulate may try to visit with Polanski today if allowed.

"I'm offering my support to Polanski as a French citizen and as the minister for culture. Justice has been denied to him many times in his life, and beauty is something that he has brought though his films," he said, calling Polanski a "wonderful man" and "one of the greatest directors of all time.If the world of culture does not offer its support to Polanski, then that would mean there is no more culture in this country."

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which is overseeing the case, declined to comment to Sunday.

"We don't comment on matters of extradition, unless and until an individual is on U.S. soil," spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said, citing security concerns.

But the U.S. Marshals confirmed it has been watching Polanski's movements. A provisional arrest warrant was issued after the Marshals and the Los Angeles Police Department learned Polanski would be traveling to Switzerland via Vienna.

Two sources familiar with the case told ABC News that Polanski was arrested after authorities saw advertising on the Internet touting that he was going to attend the film festival in Switzerland. Apparently, the organizers for the event thought it was good for ticket sales and were using his appearance as a marketing tool.

Los Angeles District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons told ABC News that this is not the first time Polanski has been in this situation, but he typically hears about a possible arrest ahead of time.

"He hears that he might be arrested if he goes to another country, so he doesn't go," she said, using England as an example.

If and when Polanski is extradited, she said, he will appear in a Los Angeles court. Gibbons said Switzerland is just one of several countries U.S. authorities have worked with to take Polanski into custody.

"We have made requests through diplomatic channels where we've received info that he will be traveling to other countries that have a treaty with the U.S.," she said, calling Polanski a "fugitive." "There has been several times where we have prepared necessary documents with the countries that have treaties with the U.S."

ABC News' Christel Kucharz, Christophe Schpoliansky and DeeAhna Hernandez and Pierre Thomas, and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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