Legal Expert Says Roman Polanski Arrest 'Doesn't Make Any Sense'

Lawyer for the Oscar-winning director said he would fight extradition.

ByABC News
September 28, 2009, 4:47 AM

Sept. 28, 2009 — -- As director Roman Polanski's lawyers vow to fight his extradition from Switzerland, they and others have raised questions about why he was arrested now, 32 years after he committed statutory rape.

"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 1977 tryst with a 13-year-old girl, 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.

Polanski fled the United States in 1978 after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with Samantha Geimer after plying her with champagne and Quaaludes at the home of actor Jack Nicholson.

For now, Swiss authorities have maintained that they were acting on a request from the United States to bring a fugitive to justice. Polanski was arrested after walking into a trap at the Zurich airport on his way to receive an award at the Zurich Film Festival.

French attorney Herve Temime vowed today to fight Polanski's extradition.

"He wants to struggle, and I think it will be possible for us to maintain his freedom," the lawyer told "Good Morning America" today, adding that Polanski and his lawyers were shocked that the Oscar winner was arrested after walking into a trap at the Zurich, Switzerland, airport.

Polanski, 76, has been avoiding the United States and countries that have extradition agreements with the United States since 1978. Then a powerhouse Hollywood director, Polanski continued a fruitful career in Europe and had been known to visit Switzerland frequently, reportedly owning a chalet there.

"I'm very shocked by the demand of extradition because, you know, this case has been a very long time -- 32 years -- and during this time, Mr. Polanski traveled a lot," Temime said. "He couldn't imagine that he would be arrested in Switzerland."

Before leaving the United States, Polanski served 43 days in a California jail, where he underwent psychological evaluation. His decision to flee was rooted in fear of a long prison sentence despite taking a plea deal.

Temime is one of a team of lawyers, including Swiss lawyer Lorenz Erni of the firm Eschmann & Erni, to represent him while he is held in Zurich.

"I've talked with Mr. Polanski," Temime said. "He's in very good shape."

Now in her 40s, Geimer has said she has forgiven Polanski and does not want him to serve jail time.

Swiss officials are waiting on an official extradition request from the United States, but may set bail for Polanski.