D.A. says it didn't know of Swiss request for testimony; Department of Justice says yes, you did
The fallout from the failed extradition of Roman Polanski continues and now the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office and the Department of Justice are passing the buck.
On July 12, the Swiss government refused American requests to extradite Polanski, who was arrested in Zurich in Sept. 2009, back to California to face justice for the drugging and rape of a 13-year old girl in 1977.
Now seems to be some confusion in America about who knew what and when. Specifically, did the L.A. district attorney's office know of the Swiss government's request for sealed testimony from Roger Gunson, the former deputy D.A. who handled the case back before Polanski fled American justice and into exile in 1978?
The D.A. says not at the time.
The U.S. Department of Justice says yes, you did.
At a May 10 hearing dealing with a motion by Polanski’s lawyers to unseal Gunson's testimony, current Deputy D.A. David Walgreen told the court that he was complying with all requests from the Swiss and that on this matter “no such request has ever been received by the people.”
As TheWrap reported at the time, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza — in part citing the D.A.’s offices assurances that it had never received any requests — denied the unsealing.
Thursday, the Department of Justice — perhaps wanting to clean some of the stink, stain and responsibility of the latest Polanski fiasco its its hands — said “the D.A.'s office was fully informed of all requests from Swiss authorities.”
(Update: “There is no conflict between statements made by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice, said D.A. spokesperson Sandi Gibbon on Thursday afternoon. “The request for a transcript of the sealed testimony was made to the Swiss government by Polanski’s lawyer in Switzerland. During this entire lengthy and complicated process, we have enjoyed nothing but professionalism and cooperation from attorneys with the Office of International Affairs of the U.S. Department of Justice.”)
Attempts by TheWrap to contact Roman Polanski's lawyers were not immediately returned.
However a person close to the D.A.'s office said, with no small degree of understatement, that “no one is happy with how this looks.”
Indeed, it was mostly the lack of Gunson testimony that led to the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police's decision on Monday not to extradite Polanski. Both the Europeans and Polanski’s lawyers believed that testimony — which was intended to be used in the event that Gunson would be unable to appear in court due to bad health — revealed judicial misconduct and then-Judge Laurence J. Rittenband’s sentence of 42 days in a prison psychiatric unit was supposed to be Polanski's full sentence back in the '70s.
“The D.A'.s office provided input and approved all responses from the U.S. government to Swiss authorities on this matter,” the DOJ says, “including the response by the Department of Justice to Swiss authorities regarding this testimony."
On May 13, the DOJ refused the Swiss request to see Gunson’s testimony, citing Judge Espinoza’s May 10 decision to keep it sealed.
Without all the facts at hand, the Swiss felt they had no choice but to refuse America’s request for Polanski.
“In the circumstances, it was not possible to exclude with the necessary certainty that Roman Polanski had not already served the sentence imposed at the time and as a result, the extradition request was seriously flawed,” the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police said early on Monday. “Given the persistent doubts as to the precise facts of the case, the request had to be rejected.”
And with that the 76-year old Roman Polanski was released from house arrest to live a free man in France, Poland and Switzerland.
So who knew what and when?