Page last updated at 05:46 GMT, Thursday, 7 January 2010

Roman Polanski asks to be sentenced in absentia

Director Roman Polanski (file pic)
Roman Polanski has spent recent decades living and working in France

Film director Roman Polanski has asked a judge in Los Angeles to sentence him in absentia over the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Judge Peter Espinoza said he would consider the request at a hearing scheduled for 22 January.

Polanski, 76, is currently under house arrest at his Swiss chalet and is fighting extradition to the US.

Prosecutors said they opposed any effort to sentence Polanski before he appears in court.

Judge Espinoza said he wanted to see legal briefs to explain why sentencing in absentia would be appropriate.

Prosecutor David Walgren said Polanski should not be able to fight the case "from the comfort of his Swiss chalet in the Alps", and that a fugitive should not "dictate the court's processes".

Polanski faces a sentence of two years on a guilty plea, though his lawyers are expected to request he not serve any additional time.

Electronic tag

A California appeals court last month rejected Mr Polanski's request to have the case dropped on the grounds of judicial misconduct.

But it ruled that the allegations of misconduct were "extremely serious" and should be investigated.

Polanski's lawyers had alleged that a Los Angeles judge, now deceased, engaged in "backroom manipulations" while handling the case in 1977.

It was the appeals court that suggested Mr Polanski ask to be sentenced in absentia.

Switzerland is expected to decide whether or not to extradite Polanski early this year, though he could appeal.

The film director, who holds both French and Polish citizenship, fled the US in 1978 after pleading guilty to having unlawful sex with an underage girl.

He has been fitted with an electronic bracelet by the Swiss authorities to prevent him absconding.

The Swiss Federal Criminal Court granted the Oscar-winning director $4.5m (£2.7m) bail, pending proceedings for his possible extradition to the US.

The director of films such as Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown and The Pianist was arrested after travelling to Zurich on 26 September to pick up a lifetime achievement award.

Polanski spent most of the last 30 years living and working in France.

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