Roman Polanski Set Free After Swiss Refuse To Extradite Him

Well, that was anti-climactic.

Various news sources (including the NYTimes) are reporting that after being under house arrest in Switzerland for the past seven months, Roman Polanski is now free to go. The Swiss government has decided not to extradite him, a decision that came after the Washington refused to release confidential testimony given in January by LA attorney Roger Gunson, Polanski's original prosecutor decades ago.

"Mr. Polanski can now move freely. Since 12:30 today he's a free man," said the Swiss justice minister.

For those new to the story: In 1977, Roman Polanski gave champagne and part of a Quaalude to a teenager and raped her. He was indicted on six counts, including child molestation and rape by use of drugs. He pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse. The judge in the case ordered Polanski be confined to Chino state prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. Polanski was released after just 42 days, deemed psychologically sound and unlikely to offend again. The judge had suggested to Polanski's lawyers that he was unsatisfied with this outcome, and would send Polanski back to serve the remainder of his 90 days and potentially deport him too.

On the eve of his sentencing in 1978, Polanski fled the country and has technically been a fugitive from the U.S. since. He has mostly lived in France, a country that does not extradite its citizens. This past September, Polanski was taken into custody in Zurich, Switzerland, after traveling there to accept a lifetime achievement award.

The testimony that Washington refused to release in this situation would have established whether or not the original judge in Polanski's case had agreed that the original 90-days psychiatric evaluation would have constituted the whole of Polanski's sentence. According to the Swiss justice ministry, "If this were the case, Roman Polanski would actually have already served his sentence and therefore both the proceedings on which the U.S. extradition request is founded and the request itself would have no foundation."

The Swiss government explained that the decision not to extradite is "not about deciding whether he is guilty or not guilty," but rather due to a consideration of the "persisting doubts concerning the presentation of the facts of the case." According to the Swiss justice minister, Switzerland handles 200 extradition requests a year and only rejects about 5% of them.