LA County DA: Unseal Secret Transcript in Polanski Case

Filmmaker's lawyers say testimony of ex-prosecutor could free Polanski in 1977 sex abuse case
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2022 7:11 AM CDT
LA County DA: Unseal Secret Transcript in Polanski Case
In this May 27, 2017, file photo, director Roman Polanski is seen at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France.   (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

Twice, Roman Polanski's legal team has tried to resolve his sexual abuse case in the US, to no avail. They're hoping the third time will be the charm, as the current Los Angeles County district attorney has agreed to unseal an important transcript that his predecessors have kept secret. Citing the wishes of Polanski's victim (13 years old when he abused her 45 years ago); a desire for transparency; and "unique and extraordinary circumstances," DA George Gascón asked a state appeals court on Tuesday to unseal the testimony of retired prosecutor Roger Gunson, reports the Los Angeles Times, which notes it's not clear why the testimony was ever sealed in the first place. "For years, this office has fought the release of information that the victim and public have a right to know," Gascón says in a statement.

Polanski, who pleaded guilty in 1977 to sexually assaulting the teen after plying her with champagne and drugs, fled to France shortly after and has been living there since. Gunson, who'd led the prosecution against the film director, had been interviewed in 2009 about the case, and Polanski's attorneys say that his words will help their client—specifically, by showing that the judge presiding over the case had intended for Polanski to be remanded in custody only for a 90-day state diagnostic evaluation, not for a longer-haul prison sentence. Polanski's legal team tried in both 2010 and 2017 to have Gunson's testimony unsealed and to resolve the case, but those requests were denied, per Variety.

Polanski's lawyers say this new move by Gascón could lift the international fugitive warrant against Polanski, now 88, but a spokesman from the DA's office says he could still face two years in state prison for being a fugitive from justice. Gascón's office seems willing to also take a fresh look at Polanski's case, which the director has claimed was plagued by misconduct on the part of both the prosecution team and the judge. "Many people are suspicious that something untoward occurred," Tiffiny Blacknell, a special adviser to Gascon, tells Variety. "We share that curiosity and that concern." One person who has long supported unsealing Gunson's testimony: Samantha Geimer, Polanski's victim. "The lack of resolution of this case has haunted my family for decades," Geimer, now 59, wrote in a letter to Gascón's office earlier this year, per the Times. (More Roman Polanski stories.)

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