Page last updated at 05:24 GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Bid to scrap Polanski sex charge

Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski spent his early years in France before moving to Poland

Lawyers for Oscar-winning film director Roman Polanski have asked a California court to dismiss a 30-year-old charge of unlawful sex with a minor.

They said they had new evidence showing "judicial and prosecutorial misconduct" had distorted the legal process.

Polanski, 75, has lived in France since fleeing the US in 1978 to avoid facing a prison sentence after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

He was initially indicted on six felony counts and faced up to life in prison.

Since then, Polanski has been unable to return to the US for fear of arrest, and has even avoided making films in the UK because of the danger of extradition.

'Pattern of misconduct'

In a motion filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, lawyers for the Polish-born director said a recent documentary about him had revealed that "judicial and prosecutorial misconduct... so distorted the legal process that the interests of justice can only be served with complete dismissal of the case".

This case serves as a classic example of how our justice system can be abused
Chad Hummel and Brad Dalton
Lawyers for Roman Polanski

The documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, portrays the late Superior Court Judge Laurence Rittenband as a publicity seeker, who held several news conferences and extrajudicial meetings about the case.

In an interview for the film, former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney David Wells admits having advised the Judge Rittenband on how to sentence Polanski, even though he was not assigned to the case.

Polanski's lawyers, Chad Hummel and Brad Dalton, said the documentary had uncovered "a pattern of misconduct and improper communications" between prosecutors and the judge.

"This case serves as a classic example of how our justice system can be abused, and defendants' rights trampled, by an unholy alliance between courts and criminal prosecutors," they added.

A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office said it had not seen the request for dismissal.

"As far as we're concerned it is a matter between Mr Polanski and the court," Sandi Gibbons told Reuters.

Ms Gibbons said Polanski was a fugitive and that there was still a warrant out for his arrest. A hearing is scheduled for 21 January.

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