Prosecution: Polanski has no right to hearing

January 16, 2009 6:53:22 PM PST
Fugitive director Roman Polanski has no right to a hearing on a motion to dismiss his 31-year-old sex case because he refuses to appear in court, a prosecutor asserted Friday. Prosecutor David Walgren said in newly filed documents that Polanski flouted the law when he fled to France to avoid sentencing for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl.

He said the director has no right to a hearing until he submits to the court's jurisdiction. He added that the now-45-year-old victim, who wants to speak at the hearing Wednesday to urge dismissal, should not be heard unless he appears.

Polanski's lawyer says he has no plans to ever return to the United States but claims the case can be heard without him. If Polanski chose to attend the hearing, he would be immediately arrested.

Walgren said little has changed legally since the day in 1978 when Polanski failed to appear in a Santa Monica courtroom for sentencing.

"The defendant ignored a lawful and valid court order to appear in court and instead chose to flee to the comforts of France," he said.

"It would be a farce for this court to review the case when it has no jurisdiction over the defendant," the prosecutor said.

Walgren argued that allowing such a hearing would violate the basic principle of the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, that "a fugitive from justice has no right to ask the court to review the very judgment that the fugitive flouts."

As for the victim's right to speak, Walgren concluded: "Until such time that the defendant submits to this court's jurisdiction and the court holds a hearing, the time is not ripe for the victim, either personally or through her attorney, to be heard in court."

Polanski, the director of such film classics as "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby," won the 2002 directing Oscar for his Holocaust-themed film, "The Pianist."