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.