WARSAW, Poland — Roman Polanski beat a U.S. attempt to extradite him as a Polish judge ruled that the nation’s law forbids sending the filmmaker back to the United States, where he pleaded guilty nearly four decades ago to having sex with a minor.“I can breathe now with relief,” the Oscar-winning director told reporters in Krakow, where the case was heard.“I pleaded guilty. I went to prison. I have done my penalty. The case is closed,” said the 83-year old director, who appeared thin and exhausted.Polanski also beat a U.S. attempt to extradite him from Switzerland more than a decade ago.Friday’s decision could finally close the case in Polanski’s favor. The Polish prosecutor who argued the case for extradition on behalf of the United States did not immediately say whether there would be an appeal.Judge Dariusz Mazur said the case was very complicated but an extradition procedure would violate the human rights of the elderly Polanski because he could be sentenced to confinement.
“I find no rational answer to the question: what is the real point of the U.S. extradition request?” said Mazur, who spent more than two hours explaining his reasoning to the court in Krakow.Mazur said Polanski served his punishment in confinement in the U.S., and later for 10 months — partly under house arrest — in Switzerland in 2009-2010 when the U.S. unsuccessfully sought his extradition there.U.S. judges and prosecutors in the case violated legal procedures, broke the plea bargain in 1977, denied Polanski the right to proper defense and appeared biased, the judge found.Polanski was not in court for the ruling, but followed live TV coverage of the proceedings.“I am glad that I have trusted Poland’s justice system,” Polanski told reporters.“Listening to the court today I was really moved because I had not imagined the judge would know the case in such detail, with all the dates quoted correctly. There was not one mistake.”
Polanski’s attorneys had argued that the U.S. request was legally flawed and contended he had already served prison time under a plea-bargain deal with a Los Angeles judge.Polanski was initially charged on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, but was allowed to plead guilty in 1977 to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl during a photo shoot in Los Angeles.In exchange, the judge agreed to drop the other charges and sentenced him to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. Polanski was released after 42 days by an evaluator who deemed him mentally sound and unlikely to offend again.The California judge then said he was going to send Polanski back to prison for the remainder of the 90 days and that afterward he would ask Polanski to agree to a “voluntary deportation.” Polanski fled from the United States on Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was scheduled to be sentenced to the additional time.Mazur said Polanski had reason to believe then he would be put in prison for a longer time.
An attorney representing Samantha Geimer, the victim in the case, said the ruling should close the case.“Both the judicial systems of Poland and Switzerland are able to do what the judicial system of the United States seems unable to do, and that is put the matter behind us,” said the attorney, Lawrence Silver.The Associated Press does not typically name sex abuse victims, but Geimer has publicly identified herself in court filings, interviews and a memoir, and has repeatedly called for the case against Polanski to be closed.“Our position on this matter remains the same,” said Shiara Davila-Morales, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which has continued to pursue Polanski. She said the agency would have no further comment.Polanski is a celebrity in Poland, and public opinion in his childhood country has been mostly in his favor. He won an Academy Award for best director for his 2002 film “The Pianist” and was nominated for 1974’s “Chinatown” and 1979’s “Tess.”Polanski’s movements are restricted by an Interpol warrant in effect in 188 countries, but he is avoiding extradition by remaining only in France, Poland and Switzerland.