Roman Polanski’s Claim That Judge Would Renege on Promise in Abuse Case Supported by Former Prosecutor’s Testimony

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A formerly sealed transcript is lending support to Roman Polanski’s claim that the judge in his criminal case for unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor was backing out of a plea deal.

Former deputy district attorney Roger Gunson said in testimony in 2010, which was just obtained by the Associated Press, that the judge in Polanski’s case had suggested the director would not serve jail time.

“The judge had promised him on two occasions … something that he reneged on,” Gunson said, per the AP. “So it wasn’t surprising to me that, when he was told he was going to be sent off to state prison … that he could not or would not trust the judge.”

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In August 1977, Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, months after a grand jury indicted him on six felony charges, including the rape of a 13-year-old girl. As part of Polanski’s plea deal, he was ordered to undergo a mandatory 42-day diagnostic screening at a prison in California. The recommendation following the screening was that the director be placed on probation.

In 1978, after Polanski learned that the presiding judge, Laurence Rittenband, now deceased, had reconsidered the plea agreement and was intending to give the director a much more severe sentence, Polanski fled the country. He has largely lived in France since then.

Polanski’s legal team has alleged that Rittenband was inappropriately influenced by a public opinion and by ex parte statements made by Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney David Wells, and that Gunson’s testimony might bear this out.

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“We are pleased that today in the Roman Polanski case, the appellate court ordered the unsealing of the conditional deposition transcript of former Deputy District Attorney Roger Gunson. This decision comes less than 48 hours after we submitted a letter rescinding our objection to the release,” Gascón said in a statement last week.

In 1977, the 13-year-old testified to a grand jury that Polasnki gave her part of a sedative and champagne and forced her to have sex during a photo shoot at the home of Jack Nicholson (the actor was not in residence at the time). She said she was afraid of Polanski and didn’t fight him at the time.

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