With Roman Polanski under arrest in Switzerland, American prosecutors Monday disputed a claim by the director that they had never tried to nab him after he fled overseas to escape sentencing on charges he had sex with an underage girl.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said it had multiple contacts with several countries in efforts to arrest the Academy Award-winning filmmaker, including once with Israel as recently as 2007.
Polanski’s arrest in Switzerland on Saturday sparked an international outcry from prominent European supporters and drew questions about why American authorities chose to act now even though Polanski has been living and working openly in Europe for decades.
In a statement, authorities challenged recent court filings by Polanski’s lawyers that suggested he had not been arrested because doing so could draw attention to alleged misconduct by prosecutors.
“The District Attorney’s Office in the 30 years since Mr. Polanski left the jurisdiction, has not once sought to have him extradited,” the attorneys wrote in a July filing. “If it had, there would have been a hearing regarding the misconduct in this case.”
Polanski’s agent, Jeff Berg, said he was aware of no efforts to arrest Polanski before Saturday.
The timing of the director’s arrest “certainly appears unusual,” Berg said, especially since Polanski spent the summer at his house in Switzerland.
Polanski, who has been shooting “The Ghost” in Germany for the past six months, was in plain sight, Berg added.
“How hard would it be to find someone shooting a major film in a European country?” Berg asked. “He travels with transparency across Europe. It makes no sense.”
The director had pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl. He was sent to prison for 42 days but then the judge tried to renege on the plea bargain. On the day of his sentencing in 1978, aware the judge would sentence him to more prison time, Polanski fled to France.
Prosecutors released a list of their efforts to nab the “Chinatown” director after he left the United States. Those efforts included requesting arrest warrants in England, Thailand, France and Israel since 1978.
Berg said he had spoken with Polanski’s wife, who said her husband remains strong and optimistic.
“I think he would like to close this chapter,” Berg said.
He added that Polanski does not have interest in working in the United States, primarily because his family is in Europe and there are plenty of filmmaking opportunities there.
Even before Saturday’s arrest, Polanski’s case has been in the spotlight for months. The director’s attorneys sought to have the case tossed out after the release of the HBO documentary, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” detailed alleged misconduct by the judge.