Category Archives: Roman Polanski

. . .and his encounter with a corrupt judiciary

Roman Polanski wants to come back to the U.S.

We are intimately connected with Roman Polanski, though we’ve we’ve only talked with the brilliant director once, and that was some years back when he was first trying to return to the country where he had served prison time for the statutory rape of a young woman a week before her 14th birthday.

There’s no question that it happened,. Polanski admitted it before the late Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Laurence J. Rittenband, a peculiar character much like a smart Donald Trump in that he was obsessed with his own celebrity and deeply outraged anyone who dared criticize him.

Polanski’s able attorneys had negotiated a plea agreement with the judge, the District Attorney’s office, and the parents of the young woman, but the judge backed out after the director had served the agreed-upon time.

The reason he backed out: He was getting criticism from the wives of the members of the exclusive Hillcrest Country Club, where he spent much of the time he wasn’t serving on the bench.

We know this because he told us.

Just as personal ego is no basis for running a country, it’s no basis for running a courtroom either.

And now the only person who seemed to want Polanski to be exposed to the criminal justice system again is the elected Los Angeles County District Attorney.

It’s certainly not the woman at the center of the case, who has explicitly and repeatedly said she wants Polanski to be left alone.

From TMZ:

Roman Polanski will make a move next week to return to the U.S. and end his child rape case for good, without serving additional jail time.

Polanski’s famed lawyer, Harland Braun, has asked an L.A. County Superior Court judge to unseal a long-secret transcript of the testimony of the prosecutor in the Polanski case.

Braun believes the secret testimony supports Polanski’s claim that he cut a deal to serve only 48 days behind bars for raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977, and the judge signed off.

Polanski actually spent 42 days in Chino State Prison and was released. But Judge Laurence Rittenband allegedly reneged on the deal and told prosecutors he decided Polanski should spend up to 50 years in prison. That’s when Polanski fled the U.S. for Europe.

Polanski spent another 334 days in custody in Switzerland, while authorities tried to extradite him back to the U.S. A Polish court ruled Polanski has served his time under the plea deal, and now Braun wants the L.A. judge to honor that ruling.

For more on the case and Rittenband’s madness, see Marina Zenovich’s superb documentary, Roman Polanski, Wanted and Desired, in which we happen to be featured, both on- and off-camera.

And by all means, see our extensive posts on the case.

Poland’s highest court rejects Polanski extradition

We have written extensively about the gross miscarriage of justice in the decision of the Los Angeles Superior Court in its insistence that director Roman Polanski be extradited from Europe to face a longer prison sentence than he already served for his 1976 guilt plea in a statutory rape case.

There was no question of Polanski’s guilt. But there is also no question that Polanski served the sentence agreed to by prosecution and defense attorneys in his 1976 plea bargain, a deal approved by the Judge Laurence J. Rittenband.

Nor can there be any doubt that the judge reversed himself after the director served his time at Chino state prison.

Our previous posts and our appearance in the Marina Zenovich’s superb 2008 documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, make clear, the judge backed out after all conditions of the deal had been fulfilled, including that time behind bars,

And even though the judge is dead, the court still insists on Polanski’s return, where he would face the prospects. . .of what? A longer prison sentence than he already served?

There’s no question of Polanski’s responsibility for the actions he admitted, nor is there any question that his flight was a reasonable action, considering utterances by the judge to his country club pals.

A corrupt judge tries to save face

The judge was embarrassed by criticism he received after the deal was finished, and he violated the canons of judicial ethics in consulting at least one journalist [your truly], as well as an assortment of powerful folks at the Hillcrest Country Club, his home away from home.

But the judge’s unethical and probably illegal conduct seems not to bother a succession of elected Los Angeles District Attorneys, who figure they can snatch a few votes by exploiting a celebrity.

In their unrighteous zeal, the prosecutors have already forced Switzerland to place Polanski under house arrest for ten months six years ago, ending when the Swiss high court ruled that extradition “would be in breach of the Swiss ideals of truth and credibility.”

And now the Polish high court has made the same finding in yet another extradition request, upholding a lower court finding that because Polanski had already served the agreed sentence, there was a high probability that he wouldn’t be treated fairly if forcibly returned to Los Angeles.

More from BBC News:

Poland’s Supreme Court has rejected a request by the country’s justice minister to have film-maker Roman Polanski extradited to the US.

Oscar winner Polanski is wanted in the US over a decades-old case involving sex with a minor.

A Polish district court rejected a US extradition request last year.

But Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro revived the case in May, appealing to the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court ruling. He said he wanted to “avoid double standards” and that nobody should be above the law.

Polanski grew up in Poland and, although he now has homes in France and Switzerland, he visits his homeland often.

The case has led him to cancel plans to film in Poland.

The Los Angeles Times notes:

The new decision means that Polanski, who resides primarily in France and is a citizen of France and Poland, is free to travel to Poland without fear of being arrested and sent back to the U.S. Though the director was born in Paris, he grew up in Poland, where as a young boy he survived the Holocaust before going on to become an accomplished filmmaker.

Poland’s ruling also means that American officials have virtually exhausted their options in a four-decade attempt to bring the Polanski back to the U.S. In 2010, Switzerland declined the U.S.’s request to extradite Polanski after he was arrested in Zurich the year before on his way to a film festival. The director spent several months in prison and under house arrest.


The L.A. district attorney’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Let us hope that this brings an end to case, an end desired by the woman at the center the case and anyone who values the rule of law over whim.

A new Polish push for Polanski’s extradition

Roman Polanski is facing yet another push to force him back to the United States to face an unjust judicial system exploiting his celebrity to draw political approbation.

This time it’s a second push by the right wing government of his native Poland that’s out to exploit a 39-year-old miscarriage of justice — a debacle about which we have first-hand experience, having reported on the case as it developed and having interviewed all the participants who appeared in the case [though we didn’t talk to Polanski until two decades later].

We have posted extensively about the Polanski case, and for a backgrounding on our perspective, we would direct your attention to a series of four posts: part one, part two, part three, and part four.

One thing we’ve noted throughout the years we’ve followed the case are the frequent inaccuracies in media coverage, and we’ll highlight that continuing tradition in this poost about the latest twist.

So on to the latest development, starting with this from New Europe:

Oscar-winning film director Roman Polanski faces a new extradition challenge from Poland to the United States. Well, in theory.

In reality the new Polish government announced on Tuesday it would be challenging a Court ruling made in October 2015, days before it came to power. Polanski’s extradition in connection with a sex conviction in the United States is seen as an opportunity for the PiS government to show its moral credentials, just as the Minister of Justice has appropriated the office of the Public Prosecutor against the ruling of the Constitutional Court.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said Polanski was “accused of and wanted for … the rape of a child.” The prosecution of Polanski is, according to the Prosecutor-Minister, a “litmus test” that no one is above the law.

The story included this important information:

For his crime, Polanski spent 42 days in prison after his initial arrest in 1977. He then was allowed to flee overseas and has not returned to the United States for over 40 years.

No quite accurate, but it did include the critical fact that Polanski spent time in state prison.

The inaccuracy comes from the the declaration that, having done time, he was “allowed to flee overseas.” No, he wasn’t. He fled without permission, but for quite understandable reasons.

Next, from the New York Times:

Mr. Polanski was arrested in 1977 on charges that included the rape of a teenage girl at the home of the actor Jack Nicholson. That August, he pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor under a deal that allowed him to avoid conviction on other, harsher charges, including sodomy and rape.

He fled the United States the next year, after learning that the trial judge in California, Laurence J. Rittenband, had decided to revise a plan to limit his sentence to a 90-day psychiatric evaluation, a portion of which Mr. Polanski had already served in a state prison. (The judge, who died in 1993, once vowed to remain on the bench until Mr. Polanski returned.)

In 2009, a California appeals court panel suggested that Mr. Polanski could be sentenced in absentia to time served, opening the way to a possible resolution of the standoff. But the plan was rejected by the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Wrong again. The psychiatric diagnosis could take a maximum of 90 days, but in no cases that we covered or in the experience of any of the attorneys we interviewed did the exam take longer than 50 days.

There’s plenty more, after the jump. . .

BBC News simply stated: Continue reading

Roman Polanski may be extradited to the U.S.

The ongoing and morally corrupt and legally flawed 38-year-long campaign by the Los Angeles County Superior Court and the office of the District Attorney to force director Roman Polanski back to the U.S. may be nearing an end.

The election of a new and very conservative government may finally bring Polanski back to the U.S., reports the Hollywood Reporter:

Roman Polanski should face justice in America if a Polish court rules to agree to a U.S. extradition request Friday over a conviction for having sex with a minor dating back to 1977, the country’s new governing party says.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s conservative Law and Justice Party, which swept to power in general elections held in the country Sunday, last week said the fugitive filmmaker could expect to be sent back to the U.S if the court rules to extradite him.

Kaczynski made Polanski’s case a political issue in the final days of the campaign, stressing the party’s line that all must be equal before the law. “There was open talk that he should not be made responsible for his deeds because he is an outstanding, world-famous filmmaker,” Kaczynski said. “We will totally reject this attitude.”

Other than the O.J. Simpson case, no criminal prosecution of the last quarter of the the 20th Century has generated as much ongoing passion.

And it is a case we known well, having testified during the original prosecution.

To understand why we say the extradition campaign is corrupt, see our extensive previous posts.

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.