Category Archives: Roman Polanski

. . .and his encounter with a corrupt judiciary

And now for something completely different. . .


This time, it’s Roman Polanski’s latest film, a short created for Prada featuring Ben Kingsley and Helena Bonham Carter. And, as might be expected, it’s delightfully perverse.

We’ll say no more.

Roman Polanksi: ‘A Therapy’

How Roman Polanski got us kicked off a jury


UPDATE: We removed a couple of identifiers from the case from which we were excluded to preclude just the problem that lies at the heart of the story.

Not that we wanted to be kicked off, exactly.

In all of our nearly seven decades of life, we’ve never had the opportunity of serving on a jury, so when we received a summons and drove down to the local County Superior Court Tuesday morning for the first phase of jury selection, we found ourselves in a panel selected for voir dire in a criminal case.

Good, we thought. Having spent so many years reporting on the criminal justice, we were finally getting the opportunity to see its workings from the inside, in the very heart of the process, the secret deliberations with a group of fellow citizens which would decide both the fate of the defendant and, to some degree, the credibility of those who had brought him or her before the bar of justice.

Besides, we’ve been having a record heat wave for May, and welcomed the chance to spend a few days in an air-conditioned courtroom rather than our own non-air-conditioned little home.

We filed into the courtroom, filing every seat in the spectator’s section and the jury box as well and after the swearing in, the judge explained the basics of the case.

The defendant, it seems, was a man charged with raping by threat of force his own niece while she was 12 and 13 years old. There were other charges as well, including forcible oral copulation.

Before midday we went sent hope and told to return today for questioning to determine our suitability to sit in judgment.

It was last night when then sobering thought occurred that during the questioning process — something we were very familiar with, having observed it as a reporter on a dozen or so occasions — might provoke some answers that could prove inflammatory or prejudicial.

That’s because we had testified in a case involving a very famous suspect who had been facing some of the same charges before the victim refused to cooperate with the prosecution and testify, leaving the defendant to plead to lesser offense, so-called statutory rape of a 13-year-old.

People v Roman Raymonnd Polanski

The defendant was Roman Polanski, and during the course of the legal proceedings, we were summoned to the witness stand to refute a story by a German reporter claiming that Polanski had violated the terms of a pre-trial agreement that had allowed him to travel abroad to finish arrangements for a film he was scheduled to direct for Dino DiLaurentiis [who also testified, along with Bill Farr, a reporter for the Los Angles Times who had previously and famously done jail time rather than testify as to the source of a leak in another famous case, that of Charles Manson].

Our testimony at the time [1977] was widely reported, resulting in [among other things] a call from an ex-wife who had seen us on the evening news as we left the courtroom [cameras were allowed in California courts at the time].

Our role in the Polanski case resurfaced in 2008, with the release of the documentary Roman Polanski, Wanted and Desired by Marina Zenovich, a film in which we are prominently featured, providing both background on the case as well as direct evidence of misconduct by Judge Laurence J. Rittenband, who had called us into his chambers, complained that wives of his friends from the exclusive Hillcrest Country Club [the center of his social life] were complaining about the terms of the plea bargain. And then he dropped the bombshell: “Dick – tell me. What the hell should I do with Polanski ?”

Judges are supposed to reached decision based on facts produced through the legal process, statutes, and case law. One thing judges are barred from doing by the canons of their own profession is to seek advice from reporters on sentencing and disposition.

We threw up our hands, and said “Whoa, judge, that’s your decision,” earning a scowl and a curt dismissal.

We was only able to tell the story because the judge had died a dozen years earlier, releasing me from an agreement never to reveal anything we discussed in his chambers as long as he lived.

After we had learned of Rittenband’s death a few years before we were interviewed for the film, we had contacted Polanski’s attorney to recount the story and sent along an affidavit of the account, declaring its veracity under penalty of perjury. We were told we might be called to testify, because the director hoped to return tot he U.S. at some point to lay the matter to rest.

Polanski had spent time in a state prison undergoing testing to determine in he was a mentally disordered sex offender, a legal label that would have haunted him for life. But the prison psychiatrist and the Los Angeles County Probation Officer assigned to the case agreed that Polanski should serve no more time. . .but there were those darn wives at the Hillcrest, leading to the judge’s gross violation of judicial ethics and, perhaps of more serious statutes.

[For more about the case itself and our role in it, as well as the judge’s mob ties, see our previous posts.]

Back to Judge Hashimoto’s courtroom

The release of the documentary resulted in newspaper and magazine articles as well as reports in online media, both in the U.S. and abroad, in which we were mentioned, sometimes prominently, and they’re appear if any jury happened to Google “Richard Brenneman” and “Polanski”.

And so it was last night as we were about to drift off into sleep that we suddenly realized that questioning in front of our fellow would-be jurors might evoked the notorious words “Roman Polanski,” a named which has been harshly treated in stories often poorly written and riotously inaccurate accounts both in print and online [just search for “Polanski” and “rapist” and see what sort of bilge washes up].

Just the mention of his name, much less a detailed account of our own role in the case, might inflame the jury, we decided and prejudice them against the defendant, who was already facing highly inflammatory charges.

And so this morning, we interrupted the court clerk, who then instructed us to fill out a sheet of paper outlining just why we felt we had information important for the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney to know.

After an initial round of questioning of some of our fellow jurors, everyone but esnl was instructed to leave the courtroom. After they’d departed, the judge summarized the contents of my note [which mentioned that the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, European newspapers, and other media had covered our role the case as revealed in the film just as they had reported on our testimony three decades earlier.

We acknowledged that, indeed, such were the facts.

The judge then announced that he and the lawyers all agreed that I shouldn’t sit on the jury.

The defense attorney smiled as we left.

And so here we are, sent home to enjoy the heat because of Roman Polanski.

Ain’t it a kick in the pants?

esnl’s role in Polanski case erupts anew


Yep, the statements we presented to documentary filmmaker Maria Zenovich for her documentary Roman Polanski, Wanted and Desired, has set off yet another legal furor that could end Roman Polanski’s four-decades-long California legal trails.

We have written extensively about the Polanski case, which we covered as a reporter for the late, great Santa Monica Evening Outlook, and in particular about the egregious and unlawful conduct of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Laurence J. Rittenband, whose best friend was powerful mob lawyer and labor fixer Sidney R. Korshak, once named by the California Attorney General’s office as the most powerful link between the mob, organized labor, and the corporate world [Paris Hilton’s grandpa retained him to solve labor problems at his hotel chain and lost out on a New Jersey gambling license because of it].

Not comes the latest via The Guardian:

Emails disclosed to the New York Times have revealed allegations of misconduct by a judge in the 1977 trial of film director Roman Polanski, when he was accused of the statutory rape of 13-year-old Samantha Gailey.

Larry P Fidlar, currently a judge on the Los Angeles County Superior Court, said that if Polanski were to return to the States for a hearing, it could well be ruled in his favour thanks to the misconduct of Laurence A Rittenband, the judge in the original case. Rittenband is alleged to have discussed the case with journalists as it was ongoing, and told lawyers the angle he wanted them to take – this information was uncovered by Marina Zenovich’s 2008 documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.

A hearing ruled in Polanski’s favour could theoretically mean he would be free from the sentencing that he fled from following the trial. Believing he would be sent to prison after having pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with a minor, he flew to Europe where he has stayed ever since. The closest he came to sentencing came in 2009 when he was placed under house arrest in Switzerland after entering the country for a film festival, but was not extradited to the US.

In the emails, Fidlar also wrote of the public backlash he feared were Polanski to be freed. “Since the law was on his side because of Rittenband’s conduct, I was convinced I was toast if he ever came back, and my career would be over,” he wrote. “I’ve told several judges over the years that I had pity for any judge getting that case.”

So now we have a judicial that the suspicions we first broached to Polanski attorney Douglas Dalton after we learned of Rittenband’s death we correct: The judge had violated the law as well as the plea agreement reached by all parties in the case, including the family of the young woman at its center.

And the fears Rittenband expressed to us in his chambers [where by agreement we could ask each other anything and the answers stayed inside to door] should he carry through with what he had already agreed to turned out to be the very same fears voiced by the judge handed the case decades later: That to follow the law would lead to opprobrium and the end of a judicial career.

The irony in all this is that save for an affidavit we swore out in 1999 and mailed unsolicited to Douglas Dalton, no effort has been made to memorialize our testimony, which we suspect might be critical, given that we are the only living reporter who can testify to Rittenband’s judicial misconduct.

The New York Times story is here.

In Munich, the cry is ‘Take me to your liter’


It’s Okoberfest, and there’s a helluva lot of drinkin’ goin’ on.

First, a video that nicely captures the spirit[s] of the festivites from vlogger iamdelaney featuring the music of Skrillex and their song Bangarang:

Spiegel has the numbers, including the Bierleichen body count:

The first week of this year’s Oktoberfest is over, and as ever, the half-time statistics are almost as overpowering as the high-octane Munich beer served in the tents.

A clear picture is already emerging: there are more visitors, and they’re drinking a lot more beer, and that is having predictable consequences.

The number of Bierleichen, or “beer corpses” — a term referring to people who have drunk themselves into a state of unconsciousness — jumped by almost 20 percent to 445, most of them aged 30 or under, according to the Red Cross.

Visitor numbers to the famous folk festival have increased to 3.6 million from 3.5 million at the same time last year, thanks to sunnier weather, the organizers said. And the all-important statistic — the number of one-liter Mass glasses of beer guzzled — rose by almost six percent to 3.6 million, up from 3.4 million last year, the Bavarian capital of Munich said on Sunday.

At this rate, the festival could top last year’s all-time record beer consumption of 7.5 million liters — which would be an impressive feat given that the 2012 Oktoberfest has a fifth less space than usual due to an adjacent agricultural fair which ended on Sunday.

Read the rest.

One suspects that a good part of that increase in consumption falls into the category of dancing in the face of the economic storm.

And a journalist’s brush with Oktoberfest fame

The first time we ever became, fleetingly, an international media celebrity was back in 1979, and Oktoberfest was the reason.

Our newspaper, the late, great Santa Monica Evening Outlook, has published a UPI photo showing Polanski surrounded by beautiful women seated at an Oktoberfest table in Munich.

When the judge overseeing the prosecution of the famous director on sec crimes charges involving a 13-year-old model saw the photo on Sunday’s front page, he erupted, because he’d allowed Polanski to travel to Europe only to seek funding for a new feature film.

At issue was the caption, supplied by the wire service, declaring Polanski had come to Munch solely for fun.

When we walked into the office Monday morning, we were met by Polanski’s attorney with a subpoena, compelling our testimony about the origins of the caption. We did some digging and found out the “just for fun” quote  came not from the director but from a hotel desk clerk who hadn’t ever talked to Polanski.

Our testimony helped keep the director out of the jail cell where the judge had intended to send him pending the trial.

We were briefly featured on network news that night as we walked out of the courtroom and into a forest of microphones, and in countless news stories in papers around the world.

By the following day the newspaper stories were fishwrap and and the newscasts fleeting memories.

For more about the Polanski case and our curious role in one of the celebrated scandals of the 1970s, see here. Or watch Marina Zenovitch’s compelling documentary, Roman Polanski, Wanted and Desired.

Polanski makes an apology, 37 years later


The world-renowned director has issued a belated apology to Samantha Geimer, 36 years after he fled the United States after a Santa Monica judge wrongly decided to send him back to prison after serving a prison sentence for statutory rape.

We’ve written extensively about the case, and about the outrageous conduct of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Laurence J. Rittenband.

But Polanski admitted in court that he had sex with the then-13-year-old Geimer at actor Jack Nicholson’s Coldwater Canyon home during a photographic session for the French edition of Vogue.

In a plea bargain accepted by the judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, and Geimer’s family, Polanski agreed to be incarcerated at the state prison in Chino under the guise of a psychiatric evaluation.

The state psychiatrist, a court-appointed psychiatrist, and the Los Angeles County Probation Department all agreed that Polanski shouldn’t receive additional incarceration, but after hearing complaints from the wives of friends who belonged to the Hillcrest County Club, Rittenband decided to send Polanski back to prison, in violation of both judicial ethics and the plea bargain.

In the years since, the details of the case have been revealed, most notably in Maria Zenovich’s documentary Roman Polanski, Wanted and Desired, is which we appear.

But in all the years since the events in Santa Monica, Polanski has kept silent about the case.

Until now.

From Scott Roxborough of The Hollywood Reporter:

Director Roman Polanski publicly apologized to Samantha Greimer [sic], the woman he sexually assaulted 33 years ago, in a new documentary that had its world premiere Tuesday at the Zurich Film Festival.

“She is a double victim: my victim and a victim of the press,” the Oscar-winning director says near the end of Laurent Bouzereau’s Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir.

But those hoping this new documentary would provide further evidence for or against Polanski in the case that led him to flee America back in 1978 will be disappointed. The film, shot while Polanski was under house arrest in Switzerland two years ago awaiting possible extradition, offers little new information not already in the public record.

Read the rest.

We agree with Polanski.

Polanski was guilty of a crime, and plead guilty, serving a sentence in state prison. Geimer and her family were relentlessly pursued by the press, especially the Hollywood foreign press corps. One reporter offered esnl $25,000 for a location where they could “ambush” the teenager for photos and an interview. We declined.

Geimer and her family were the subjects of endless and often scurrilous tabloid speculation, as was Polanski himself.

Neither the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office nor the courts will acknowledge the great miscarraiges of justice that led Switzerland to deny extradition after they arrested Polanski on an Interpol hold after he arrived in the country to receive the Lifteime Achievement Award from the Zurich Film Festival — an award he finally received last night to a standing ovation.

Polanski on film: ‘Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown’


From 2006, an interview with Roman Polanski that explores his approach to film, and the making of what esnl considers the most trenchant film ever made about power in the Golden State:

Let’s be clear: It didn’t start with the Rupester


Phone hacking? Wiretaps? Bribes to public officials? And all to gather tawdry scoops on celebrity scandals and crime victims? It all started with Rupert Murdoch, right?

Hardly.

In our 46 years in the news business, everything we’ve see unfolding in Britain with Murdoch’s media empire we’ve seen before, and much closer to home.

We’ve written a lot about the miscarriage of justice that was the Roman Polanski case, and how pressure from his pals at the Hillcrest Country Club led Judge Laurence J. Rittenband to renege on a plea and sentence agreed to by all parties involved in the case.

We’ve also mentioned that we were offered $25,000 — a lot of money in 1977 — for details on the young woman at the center of the case. The very American tabloid in question wanted an ambush photo and details of her private life, information we could’ve provided but didn’t.

But it doesn’t end there

Let’s begin with a story reported 11 July by Molly Hennessy-Fiske of the Los Angeles Times:

UCLA Health System has agreed to pay $865,500 as part of a settlement with federal regulators announced Thursday after two celebrity patients alleged that hospital employees broke the law and reviewed their medical records without authorization.

Federal and hospital officials declined to identify the celebrities involved. The complaints cover 2005 to 2009, a time during which hospital employees were repeatedly caught and fired for peeping at the medical records of dozens of celebrities, including Britney Spears, Farrah Fawcett and then-California First Lady Maria Shriver.

Violations allegedly occurred at all three UCLA Health System hospitals — Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital and Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, according to UCLA spokeswoman Dale Tate.

The security breaches were first reported in The Times in 2008.

Read the rest.

UCLA, is of course, a public institution, funded by California taxpayers.

Back in the early 1990s, we knew a fellow who freelanced for television tabloid shows, regularly feeding them updates on, among other things, celebrity hospitalizations. Here’s what he told us:

“You know how I do it? I go to the hospital employee parking lots and I look for the oldest, rustiest, most beat-up car, then wait around to shift change and see who gets in it. I follow him until he stops somewhere, then I find out if he’s got access to patient records. If he does, I slip him some cash and promise a lot more when he gets me what I want.”

We also talked to a fellow who had installed a wiretap on the phone lines of so-called “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss, and listened to tapes of famous Hollywood stars and producers talking to Fleiss and her stable of prostitutes.

While the illegal tapes couldn’t be used, the leads they provided were.

The DADT tabloid rule

The rule of thumb in the business is don’t ask/don’t tell. Don’t ask how the scoops were obtained, and don’t tell your readers and viewers about the corrupt nature of the enterprise you represent. All that matters is the “get,” the fruit of the poisoned tree.

Just as in the case of Murdoch’s private eyes, most of these folks weren’t on the staffs of the tabloids, televised and tabloid, but worked on spec, feeding their scoops to the highest bidders.

Every single tactic practiced by Murdoch’s minions has long been practiced here Continue reading