Monday the 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected Roman Polanski's bid to have his 1977 child-sex prosecution dismissed but outlined a way that could end the long-running case without Polanski serving more time behind bars or returning to the American justice system he fled three decades ago.
In a 3-0 ruling, the Court suggested that Polanski ask to be sentenced in absentia for the statutory rape he admitted committing 32 years ago.
According to the three-justice panel, the sentencing hearing held in his absence would provide a forum for a Los Angeles County judge to evaluate Polanski's allegations of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct in the original handling of the case.
If the evidence is persuasive, the justices wrote, "we are confident that the trial court could fashion a legal sentence that results in no further incarceration for Polanski," The Los Angeles Times reports.
It was also reported, the ruling, by a panel of three justices of California’s second appellate district, opened the door to further legal action that might resolve Mr. Polanski’s case without forcing him to be extradited from Switzerland or to serve further jail time.
Mr. Polanski, an Oscar-winning director famous for films including “Chinatown” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” fled Los Angeles in 1978 after 42 days of psychiatric evaluation in prison but before he was sentenced for having unlawful sex with Samantha Geimer, then 13. Mr. Polanski had pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor in an agreement that allowed him to avoid other, harsher charges, including sodomy and rape.
Ms. Geimer has since joined Mr. Polanski’s appeal for dismissal of the case. He has been held by Swiss authorities since September on a request from American officials that he be extradited.
In a 70-page opinion written by Justice Laurie D. Zelon, with the concurrence of Presiding Justice Dennis M. Perluss and Justice Fred Woods, the appeals court ruled that Judge Peter P. Espinoza of Los Angeles Superior Court acted within the bounds of judicial discretion when, this year, he cited Mr. Polanski’s fugitive status in refusing to consider his request for dismissal, The New York Times reports.
News agencies also report, the Court's decision read: "We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in applying the fugitive disentitlement doctrine and refusing to consider dismissing the action."
"In so doing, we do not disregard the extremely serious allegations of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct that have been brought forward, but urge the parties to take steps to investigate and to respond to the claims."
The Academy Award-winning filmmaker's lawyers argued that the original judge of the case and the D.A. conspired against him after he struck a deal and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of having unlawful sex with a minor.
Polanski is currently on house arrest in his Swiss chalet, where he is fitted with an electronic bracelet to prevent his escape, AHN reports.