Director Roman Polanski wrote a letter to Barack Obama asking for the president's help with efforts to be sentenced in absentia in his 33-year-old sex-with-a-minor case. The correspondence was delivered to the American leader by Polanski supporter and French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his recent visit to Washington, D.C., French news outlet L'Express reported recently.
Polanski argued in the letter that the more than 40 days of psychiatric evaluation he served for the crime and another two months spent in a Swiss prison as Los Angeles authorities initiated extradition proceedings should more than cover whatever sentence he would be handed for the 1977 L.A. conviction.
The director also states that extraditing him to L.A. would only serve to humiliate him in the media. His attorneys have filed an urgent request with the state's 2nd District court to order sentencing in absentia, which would let him avoid coming to court in L.A. They also want the court to order an inquiry into alleged improper contact between a District Attorney's prosecutor and the late judge in the case while his fate was still being decided.
At the heart of the battle between Polanski and the D.A.'s office is whether the time served was enough: Polanski fled for France in 1978 after hearing that the judge in the case would sentence him for additional time despite a plea deal that would have let him go free. He was nabbed last summer after the D.A.'s office here caught wind of a trip he planned to make to Switzerland to receive a film award. He's now under house arrest at his Swiss chalet. Polanski wants to be sentenced for time served so the saga could end and, perhaps, he could return to L.A.
Prosecutors say Polanski is a fugitive and must return to face the music — whatever tune that might be. The Los Angeles Times noted that contemporary sentences for similar circumstances — a grown man having sex with a 13-year-old girl — are much longer than what they were in the late 1970s; a year behind bars is not unusual.
It's not clear if Obama will respond.