The long case of controversial filmmaker Roman Polanski may be coming to close with the unsealing of vital documents.
The long, dark story of the Roman Polanski sexual abuse case might finally be drawing to a close, one way or the other. Per The Hollywood Reporter, California’s Second Appellate District has approved the unsealing of the closed-door testimony of Roger Gunson, the now-retired prosecutor in the 1977 case in which French-Polish director Roman Polanski was on trial for a number of charges relating to the sexual abuse of the then-13-year-old Samantha Geimer (nee Gailey). The testimony is being unsealed by the request of independent journalists to investigate if there was judicial misconduct in the case, as has been alleged by Roman Polanski for decades.
The order pertaining to Roger Gunson’s testimony in the Roman Polanski case stated that “there is no factual or legal basis for the conditional deposition transcript to remain sealed,” and that the appeals court was concerned that there had been no prior court determination of the alleged judicial misconduct surrounding the case. Roman Polanski’s attorney has asked for the filmmaker to be sentenced in absentia (that is, not having to be physically present) pending the unsealing of the records, and hopes that the decades-old warrant for his arrest will be rescinded, freeing him to travel outside Poland, France, and Switzerland (where he was already arrested once in 2009 and held until the Swiss government refused the United States’ extradition request).
The sexual abuse accusations against Roman Polanski instantly transformed him from one of the world’s most acclaimed filmmakers (and the object of public sympathy after his wife Sharon Tate was murdered by members of the Manson Family in 1969). During the trial, Roman Polanski eventually pled guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, part of an agreement to dismiss five other, more serious charges. According to Roman Polanski and his lawyers, the plea agreement was not expected to include any further jail time (he spent 42 days in Chino State Prison after traveling to Europe during the trial). However, Roman Polanski learned that the presiding Judge Laurence Rittenband was allegedly not intending to honor the plea agreement, and fled the country.
Roman Polanski has not been to the United States since 1978 and has avoided traveling to countries that might extradite him (such as the United Kingdom). Roman Polanski was born in Paris and holds dual French-Polish citizenship. Per a treaty with the United States, France (where the filmmaker mostly resides) has the right to refuse extradition requests. In the years since his flight, he has made many films with many stars (some of whom later regretted it) and been both honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and expelled from it. Samantha Geimer filed to have the charges against Polanski dismissed in 2009, citing the continued trauma to herself and her family.
The records on the Roman Polanski trial were requested unsealed by journalists Sam Wasson and William Rempel. If evidence of misconduct is found, it could cause the case to finally be closed. However, this decades-long affair has not yet found an ending and it may be some time yet before it does.