Swiss Authorities Refuse to Extradite Filmmaker Polanksi to U.S.

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Oscar-winning filmmaker Roman Polanski has been released from custody, after the Swiss Justice Ministry rejected a request that he be extradited to the United States to face charges of having sex with a minor.

The refusal was a blow to U.S. authorities, who have been attempting to sentence Polanski since his guilty plea in the 1977 to unlawful sexual intercourse—equivalent under California law to statutory rape—with a 13-year-old girl. As part of his plea bargain in the case, he was ordered to a 90-day psychiatric evaluation at Chino State Prison, of which he served 42 days. Upon hearing that the judge would probably sentence him to more jail time, rather than the probation that he had expected, the director fled to France, where he has mostly lived since then, in part because he could not be extradited to the U.S. from that country.

Swiss police, acting on a request from the U.S., arrested Polanksi last September in Zurich, where he had flown to accept an award at a film festival. Although initially held in custody, Polanski was then granted house arrest at his residence in Gstaad, on $4.5 million U.S. bail, while awaiting decision of appeals to the extradition request. In January 2010, California Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza ruled that Polanksi must return to be sentenced.

The Swiss said, however, that they could not determine whether or not the filmmaker had fulfilled his entire sentence, since it was possible that he would not have been sentenced to additional incarceration beyond the Chino State psychiatric evaluation. After a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled in May that transcripts of a closed-door hearing in 1977 regarding Polanski’s fulfillment of his sentence would remain secret, and after the same court refused to sentence Polanski in absentia, as his lawyers had requested, the Swiss Justice Ministry rejected the extradition because the U.S. had failed to prove that the director had additional time to serve.

Said the Swiss Justice Minister, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, the decision to allow Polanksi to go free was “not about deciding whether he is guilty or not guilty.”

The decision does not preclude prosecutors from attempting to rearrest Polanksi, but it lessens the probability that another arresting country would agree to extradite him.

The U.S. State Department denounced the Swiss decision.

“We will continue to seek justice in this case, and we will evaluate our options,” said P.J. Crowley, a spokesperson for the State Department.

 

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