Former LA Prosecutor Lied To Wanted And Desired Filmmaker; Does Revelation Destroy Polanski's Defense?

There's a pretty startling revelation from Marcia Clark, former Los Angeles District Attorney and O.J. Simpson prosecutor, with respect to the decades-old Roman Polanski case. According to her article published last night in The Daily Beast, former LA prosecutor David Wells lied to the director of Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired about having advised Judge Rittenband (now deceased) about sending Polanski to prison. The director's request for dismissal of the case against him stems in part from the allegation that Rittenband had this unethical counsel from Wells; if that did not in fact happen, where will Polanski's lawyers turn now?

Here's a recap: Polanski made a plea bargain, which led to a recommendation of probation. But, in Wanted and Desired, Wells said that he argued with Rittenband to get Polanski into jail for some time. "What you should do," Wells says on film, "is send him up for a 90-day's not a final sentence. He can't appeal it. He has to go." The agreement was that he'd go in for that observation, which was deferred for a year while Polanski worked on a film, and after that would be freed.

Quoted in The Daily Beast, Wells now says of Polanski's initial sentence:

It's likely Judge Rittenband agreed to abide by the recommendation and give Polanski no additional time after he finished his diagnostic. What he probably didn't count on was that Polanski would promise to put everyone in the prison in his next movie and basically charm his way out of there in just 42 days.

But because the custodial sentence was deferred, Polanski had been able to fly to Paris to prep the film, Hurricane, he was working on, and from there he went to Oktoberfest. His photo was snapped there, and published all over the world. Because there was already question about whether Polanski was receiving lenient punishment, Rittenband was furious. In Wanted and Desired, Wells claims he brought the photo to Rittenband and said,

What I told him was, you've made so many mistakes, I think, in this case. He's giving you the finger. He's flipping you off. Haven't you had enough of this?

Now Wells claims he only brought the paper to the bailiff and asked him to give it to Rittenband.

This is big for a couple of reasons. One is that, while Rittenband's judgment on the case has frequently been in question — he was in fact removed from it after Polanski fled the country in 1978 — Polanski's recent opposition to returning for sentencing was based in part on the revelation in Wanted and Desired that Wells had advised him, illegally, on giving Polanski the 90-day custodial sentence. Furthermore, Wells is now unreliable with respect to the case; either he lied to Marina Zenovich, director of Wanted and Desired, or he's lying now. He claims he lied because he was told the film would never appear in the US, and because "it made a better story".

Wells acknowledged his misdeeds, saying:

I'm going to have to eat crow...I know that. And I will. I know how it sounds, that I'm willing to lie about talking to Judge Rittenband, but I didn't do anything unethical. But it's the truth....Look, after 30 years, I never thought they'd get the guy back here. I figured no one cared anymore, and no one here would ever see the film anyway. What can I say? I don't have a better reason than that. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

All of this just adds a wrinkle to a pretty clear cut-scenario: Polanski must return to the States to face the end of his case.

[Thanks to /Film reader Luis for the tip]