The latest wrinkle in film director Roman Polanski’s legal problems is a hint from one of his French lawyers (since denied by another Polanski attorney) that the auteur is considering throwing in the towel and will stop fighting extradition to the U.S.
Polanski is being portrayed as a man who, rather than potentially spend years behind bars fighting transfer to Los Angeles, will choose to face the music now for his 1977 arrest for sexual assault on a minor.
There may be another reason, however, behind Polanski’s apparent change in attitude, one that would make his voluntary return to Los Angeles a shrewd legal calculation.
In 1978 Polanski surrendered to authorities and was taken to Chino State Prison, where he was to be psychiatrically evaluated. He could have remained there 90 days – the term Superior Court Judge Laurence Rittenband originally had in mind as punishment for Polanski’s confessed crime.
The good Chino shrinks, however, released Polanski after only 42 days of confinement. Rittenband soon let it be known he was going to have Polanski serve the remaining 48 days in jail – which is when the director of "Rosemary’s Baby" and "Chinatown" bolted the States for a 30-year French exile.
That exile ended Sept. 26, when Polanski was detained by the Swiss on an L.A. District Attorney’s arrest warrant. Given Polanski’s age, his international renown, the 32 years that have elapsed since his crime and the fact that his accuser has called for Polanski’s freedom, it isn’t far-fetched to imagine that the time Polanski serves in his Swiss jail cell will be added to his long-ago Chino term.
It’s a matter of doing the math: As of today he has been in Swiss confinement 26 days – on Nov. 13 Polanski will have spent 48 days there, resulting in a total of 90 days in confinement. It will be interesting to see what happens around that date if he is still in Switzerland.
Another curious coincidence is that although the D.A.’s office knew four days in advance that its warrant was about to cause Polanski’s arrest, the office did not have an extradition request prepared until last week. A spokeswoman for the D.A.’s office says that is standard procedure, and that the office has 40 days to submit an international extradition request, via the U.S. Department of Justice. (The Swiss allow 60 days.)
Still, this lack of urgency has allowed Polanski to build up weeks of potential jail-time credit in Switzerland.
When asked about the D.A.’s seeming unhurried approach to filing for extradition, a source who speaks to Polanski on a regular basis, but who wishes to remain unidentified, says simply, “Read between the lines.” This same source also says that Polanski’s medical condition in prison, which caused him to be briefly transferred to a hospital, “Is not good” and, in another possibly telling sign, the source tells TheWrap that the D.A.’s office has not indicated a desire to press charges against Polanski for skipping the country.
To many, those words may sound like clues from Polanski’s noir thriller "Chinatown." The next 22 days may reveal their exact meaning.