The decades-long legal saga of Oscar-winning filmmaker Roman Polanski took another twist on Monday (July 12), when Switzerland's Ministry of Justice announced that it would not extradite the director of "The Pianist" to the U.S. to face sentencing for child sex charges.
According to CNN, the 76-year-old director was set free after his arrest last year for the nearly 35-year-old case, in which he pleaded guilty in Los Angeles to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Polanski admitted to having sex with the underage girl after supplying her with champagne and quaaludes during a photo shoot, but he fled to Europe before his sentencing. In exchange for his guilty plea, rape and other charges were dropped at the time.
Polanski had been fighting extradition from Switzerland since his arrest last year, and Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the decision by the Swiss authorities was not based on the severity of the charge or whether Polanski was guilty. "It's not about qualifying the crime," said Widmer-Schlumpf. "That is not our job. It's also not about deciding over guilt or innocence."
CNN reported that the American request was rejected because U.S. authorities apparently did not supply all the legal records Switzerland had required and because Polanski had a reasonable right to think he would not be arrested if he visited the country. American authorities can't apply again to have Polanski extradited from Switzerland, but could try if he's detained in another country.
Polanski fled the U.S. before he was sentenced in the case after learning that the judge might not go through with the short jail term the director expected in exchange for his guilty plea. He has been a fugitive from justice since 1978, mostly living in France before his arrest in Switzerland.
The victim in the case, a now-married woman in her 40s named Samantha Geimer, long ago came forward to say she was unhappy with how the criminal case had been handled, but has called for it to be thrown out because the airing of the details of the incident causes her harm every time it is re-examined in public.