Polanski Wife Thought Arrest Was a 'Joke' -- but U.S. Judge Not Laughing, Rules Against Him

Wife defends husband in interview as judge orders him to U.S. for sentencing.

PARIS, Jan. 22, 2010 — -- A California judge today ruled that film director Roman Polanski must return to the United States to be sentenced for his 1978 sex conviction and cannot be sentenced in abstentia.

The court ruling came as Polanski's wife defended her husband in a magazine interview against 32-year-old charges of child rape, saying she thought his arrest was a "joke" and that he is an "impeccable" man.

Today's decision does not mean that Polanski, 76, necessarily will return to Los Angeles to face justice. Rather, it means that Polanski cannot be sentenced in absentia and would have to return for sentencing in person if Swiss authorities agree to extradite him.

Polanski is under house arrest at his chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, wearing an electronic bracelet.

A Swiss court still is deciding whether or not to extradite Polanski to the United States.

Polanski was accused of raping a 13-year-old girl after drugging her during a 1977 modeling shoot. He pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse, then fled to France after the California judge in the case indicated he would renege on the plea bargain and give Polanski a harsher sentence.

The Oscar-winning director was arrested at Zurich's airport on his way to a film festival Sept. 26, 2009. He was released on bail Dec. 4 and transferred to house arrest.

Polanski's lawyers have been arguing that he should be sentenced in abstentia to time already served. But Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza sided with prosecutors, saying Polanski must be sentenced in person.

"In defense of the integrity of the justice system, he needs to surrender," Espinoza said, according to The Associated Press.

The ruling is likely to be appealed by Polanski's lawyers.

Polanski's Wife Defends Her Husband

Earlier, Polanski's wife, French singer and actress Emmanuelle Seigner, told the French fashion magazine Elle in her first interview since Polanski's arrest nearly four months ago that the 1970s were so full of sex and drugs that it was a "crazy time."

Seigner, who has two children with Polanski, said she "understands perfectly" that women, particularly mothers, have been shocked by the 32-year-old charges.

But she added that at the time the crime took place, in the late 1970s, "people did not live and did not react in the same way. It was a time of craziness, the relationship to drugs wasn't the same, the relationship to sexual liberty and permissiveness neither. Today, public opinion has considerably evolved on the subjects."

Seigner said her husband of 25 years faced up to his responsibilities at the time. "My husband never believed he was above the law. The proof is that he pleaded guilty for having illegal sexual relations with an underage girl, that he got a prison sentence and that he served it," she said.

"I thought it was a joke," Seigner told the magazine of the phone call she received from Polanski on the day he was arrested.

"At first, I told myself they would keep him for 48 hours, then release him. It seemed absurd to arrest him now, while we've been coming to Switzerland for 25 years and ... legally acquired a chalet three years ago," she continued.

Seigner on Polanski: 'I Have Nothing to Reproach Him for'

After hearing the news, Seigner, her 17-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son spent the following two weeks at home, with the TV switched off and without any newspapers.

"We could not go out because we were being pursued by the paparazzi," she said. "My children did not go to school. My parents, my sisters and my close friends would come over and bring us food. It was a strange experience, not unpleasant either, as if we were in a cocoon," she said.

She also defended her husband, who, she said, was wrongly portrayed in the media. "It is not the man I met, I fell in love with, I married," she said. "My personal truth is that Roman has always been a marvelous husband and man. He is an impeccable man, and I have nothing to reproach him for."

Seigner told the magazine that the past four months following her husband's arrest were like "falling into a well like Alice in 'Alice in Wonderland,'" and that each day the fall had been "slow and regular, that each day, I was falling a bit more. And above all, that this long fall would not stop."

Seigner is promoting her second album, "Dingue" (a French word that translates loosely as "crazy") scheduled for French release Feb. 8. In a song from the album, Seigner and Polanski perform a duet about a girl who gets drunk who wakes up the following day next to a man she does not know.

Seigner said she was advised to remove the song from the album but chose not to.

"It would have been like confessing to a mistake or to an uneasiness, which have no raison d'être," she said, describing the exchange between the girl and the man as "very funny."

"Negative minds will without any doubt see something, but I can assure you that there is no particular message behind all this," Seigner said.

Seigner expressed her confidence in the U.S. justice system.

"I'm sure this case will work out all right on the American side. I'm an optimistic and positive woman."

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