LOS ANGELES - Lawyers for Roman Polanski and his victim in a 32-year-old case joined forces yesterday to ask an appeals court to dismiss a sexual-misconduct charge against the film director in the interest of justice.
It was a surprise move in a lively hearing at which appellate justices peppered lawyers and a prosecutor with pointed questions.
Polanski, 76, has been wanted since he fled to France on the eve of sentencing in 1978 for unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. He was accused of plying her with champagne and part of a Quaalude pill, then raping her during a modeling shoot at Jack Nicholson's house in 1977.
Polanski, initially indicted on six felony counts, later pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse. He reached the plea deal in 1978, but was threatened by a judge with more prison time than previously agreed upon and fled to France before he was formally sentenced. Polanski is now under house arrest in his Switzerland chalet and is fighting extradition.
Associate Justice Laurie Zelon asked yesterday why the District Attorney's Office had not investigated recent allegations of misconduct by the judge and a prosecutor during Polanski's 1977 court proceedings.
"Doesn't the District Attorney's Office have an interest in finding out what happened here?" Zelon asked.
Deputy District Attorney Phyllis Asayama replied, "Yes, we are interested. But I'm not sure we have the proper agency to do this."
The California Second District Court of Appeal is being asked to decide whether it should order a Superior Court judge to consider dismissing the case without Polanski's attendance in court. The justices did not immediately issue a ruling.
Lawrence Silver, attorney for Polanski's victim, Samantha Geimer, argued for dismissal on grounds of a recently adopted law that allows victims to have a say in cases. Geimer has repeatedly said she wants the case dismissed.