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Cold Comfort: Polanski Extradition Denied

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on July 12, 2010 12:52 PM

He's rich! Do you understand? He thinks he can get away with anything.

Jake Gittes, the character played by Jack Nicholson in one of Roman Polanski's best known films, "Chinatown," said that line. If it applies, or does not apply, to today's news in the more than 30 year-old Polanski case, is up to the individual to decide. However, what is fact is the July 12 report of the Swiss authorities' decision that they will not extradite Roman Polanski to the United States. Polanski fled the U.S. after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13 year-old girl back in 1977.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police did not make their decision based upon the merits (or lack thereof) of the case. Their decision was based on two procedural issues. First, Department found that the failure of the Los Angeles prosecutors to provide documents relating to Polanski's time already served a fatal flaw in their extradition application. If there was a strong possibility at the time that the director's 42 days in jail was going to be declared a sufficient sentence, then the argument for his extradition suddenly loses a major pillar, Peter Cosandey, a former prosecutor in Zurich, told the Times.

The second issue the Swiss pointed to was the lack of action, until last year, on the part of American officials. The Times reports the U.S. government had known of Polanski's presence in Switzerland for years. He owns the chalet in Gstaad, where until recently he was under house arrest. Yet, Swiss officials say, the U.S. prosecutors failed to take action during his many comings and goings, leading Polanski have a reasonable expectation he would not be arrested on Swiss soil. Polanski has been released from his house arrest.

The rights and wrongs of the actors in the original case (the judge and prosecutor have long been accused of improprieties) and even of the recent struggle to extradite Polanski have been scabbed over and obscured by too much attention, too much media, too much time. Polanski issued a statement in May. "I have had my share of dramas and joys, as we all have, and I am not going to try to ask you to pity my lot in life," he wrote. "I ask only to be treated fairly like anyone else." Seems he has had that opportunity, and then some.

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