In 1977, Roman Polanski had reached a deal with Los Angeles prosecutors to admit the underage sex charge and receive 42 days in prison for psychiatric tests. That was time he had already served.
The Polish-French director was also accused of giving drugs and alcohol to Samantha Gailey, who was aged 13 at the time of the case. But Polanski believed the judge, who has since died, might alter the plea agreement and require him to spend as many as 50 years behind bars. So, in 1978 he fled, finding refuge in France where his citizenship offered him protection from extraditon. He has never set foot in the United States since. More than three decades have passed. Polanski has pursued a successful career, winning a best director Oscar for his 2002 Holocaust film “The Pianist.” He did not go to Hollywood to accept it and has always avoided places where he felt extradition might be an issue. His friend, film director Volker Schloendorff, said that this summer he was visited by Polanski in Germany. “We ate together or just talked and he always repeated that there are certain countries that he does not like to travel to. But he did not expect an arrest in Switzerland. Nor did anybody else.” Yet that is exactly what happened. But why now? After all, Polanksi has a Swiss home, and has visited the country for years. One theory is that his own lawyers may, inadvertently, have triggered events after calling for the charges to be dismissed. US law professor Jean Rosenbluth said: “In his appellate brief that was recently filed after that motion to dismiss was denied, he apparently made allegations, or his lawyers did, that the district attorney’s office has not tried to find him for 30 years and that they do not want to find him because of these allegations of misconduct.” While questions have arisen about judicial misconduct, prosecutors say they have tried several times to catch Polanski. One wonders whether his legal challenge may have prompted them to try – a little bit harder.