An appeals court ruled Wednesday that transcripts related to Roman Polanski’s criminal case must be released, a decision that could end a legal saga the acclaimed film director started when he fled the United States after pleading guilty of sexually abusing a child in 1977.
A day after the Los Angeles County Attorney’s Office said they no longer oppose the unsealing of the records, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals issued a three-pager judgment accepting “the concession.”
Polanski, 88, his victim and journalists have asked judges over the years to unseal testimony made in 2009 by Roger Gunson, a retired assistant district attorney who was assigned to criminally prosecute Polanski for the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl to pursue.
Polanski’s attorney, Harland Braun, has long claimed that the transcripts show Gunson understood that LA County Superior Court Judge Laurence Rittenband intended Polanski to remain in a state prison for only a 90-day investigation after pleading guilty confessed to raping 13-year-old Samantha Geimer.
Rittenband, who led Polanski’s case, said at the time that the evaluation period would help him make a fair sentencing decision. The warden was released after 42 days, with prison officials saying he does not need any extra time.
Faced with intense media pressure, Rittenband rejected this recommendation and decided to send Polanski to prison for another 48 days. However, Polanski fled to France, where he holds citizenship. The French government refused to extradite Polanski and he never returned to the United States
The documents, Braun said, will make it clear that Polanski has served his time and should be acquitted of the possibility of another prison sentence if he ever returns to the United States, either for the original crime or for fleeing justice .
Geimer – who has repeatedly asked for the recordings to be released and the case against Polanski to be dropped – accused the then 43-year-old director of taking her to actor Jack Nicholson’s home for a photo shoot, of serving her alcohol and drugs and then he forced himself on her. Nicholson was not home at the time.
It was not immediately clear when the transcripts would be available for public inspection. If Polanski returns to the US, he could face two more years in prison if prosecutors accuse him of evading justice. However, it remains unclear if Los Angeles County Dist. atty George Gascón would make such charges.
Polanski was also accused of sexually abusing several other underage girls. The LA County Attorney’s Office declined to charge him in at least one of those cases because the statute of limitations had expired.
“We are pleased that the Court of Appeals agreed with Ms. Geimer and our office on the need for transparency,” Gascón said in a statement. “This decision was a quick step to uphold our commitment to truth. We hope it gives the victim a small measure of reassurance that the case is moving towards an outcome that will allow her to close this decades-long litigation to some extent.”
By the time Gascón said in a court of appeals filing this week that he wanted to unseal Gunson’s testimony, he and his predecessors had resisted. Prosecutors appealed a request to unseal the records filed earlier this year by journalists Sam Wasson and Bill Rempel.
“The actions of Roman Polanski were not at issue in this case. It was about the First Amendment right of the public and the press to know what judges and prosecutors are doing in our courts, and the limitations of the prosecution and court in sealing that information,” said attorney John Washington, representing Wasson and Rempel represented.
When Polanski learned of the court’s verdict, Braun said he was “thrilled.”
Once he receives the logs, Braun said he plans to file a motion to have Polanski sentenced to life in prison. After that, Braun believes, the Oscar winner could be free to return to US soil.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-07-13/roman-polanski-transcripts-must-be-unsealed-court-rules Roman Polanski criminal case transcripts must be unsealed, court rules