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D.A. to Respond to Polanski’s Request for Misconduct Inquiry

Lawyers for the director filed a 68-page petition Thursday; D.A. has until March 30 to answer

The Los Angeles District Attorney has until March 30 to challenge Roman Polanski's request for an inquiry into alleged prosecutorial misconduct during the director's 1977 trial for rape.

Polanski, who faces extradition to California for sentencing in that trial, filed a petition on Thursday asking the California Court of Appeals for the Second District to investigate misconduct. 

The Second Appellate District on Friday formally requested the D.A.'s office to respond by March 30.

The petition says that misconduct in the case of the director, who is currently under house arrest in Switzerland on a U.S. extradition warrant for his 1978 conviction for having sex with a minor, has been "hidden by the prosecution in this case for years."

After March 30, the Court could, "request more briefs, make a decision or schedule a hearing," D.A. spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons told TheWrap.

The State Department and the Department of Justice, who are handling the extradition request, did not respond to TheWrap by deadline.

Polanski fled the United States on Feb. 1, 1978 to escape being sentenced to jail for the charges. The director, who won the Oscar for "The Pianist" in 2002, has not returned since.

On Thursday, Chad S. Hummel, Joanna S. McCallum and Bart Dalton, Polanski's lawyers, filed a 68-page petition seeking, among other things, to overturn Judge Peter Espinoza’s ruling in January that the director was a fugitive from justice and could not be sentenced without having to return to California in person. The petition claims Judge Espinoza made an error because of alleged judicial misconduct that occurred in the original case.

Roman Polanski was arrested on March 11, 1977 on six felony counts, including rape and sodomy stemming from the director providing champagne and drugs to an underage girl he was photographing the day before at Jack Nicholson's house, before having sex with her despite her request he stop. The charges were reduced to unlawful sexual intercourse after a plea deal struck in part to spare teenage Samantha Geimer the spectacle of a trial.

The director was ordered to serve a 90 day further psychiatric evaluation by Judge Lawrence Rittenband. After 42 days, Polanski was released on Jan. 28, 1978. The next day, the judge indicated to the director's then lawyers  that Polanski could be sentenced to further time behind bars. Within a week the director jumped on a plane at LAX and left America.

Swiss police at Zurich airport took Polanski into custody on Sept. 26, 2009 on the request of U.S. authorities seeking to extradite the director.

This latest appeal is seeking not just to have the director's 33-year old case a brought to a "prompt and just conclusion," but, to that end, to expose supposed secret dealings between Rittenband and high level members of the the- D.A.'s office.

The petition also states that the current D.A.'s office has known about the misconduct since 2002 and that sealed testimony given by former deputy district attorney Roger Gunson, who prosecuted Polanski in 1977, earlier this year confirms all the defense’s claims.

Polanski's legal team has long argued that the director should not be subject to extradition or further punishment because the treaty between Switzerland and the United States covers only long sentences. They claim that Judge Rittenband had agreed to a deal in which the director would only serve 90 days in jail.

Gunson's sealed testimony is alleged to confirm there was such an agreement and that Rittenband, as detailed in the 2008 documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted & Desired,” reneged on it under pressure from those in his social circles. It is the motivation of that change of heart by Rittenband that supposedly convinced Gunson that the judge couldn't be fair in the case and should be disqualified.

The Swiss have indicated they will not even consider deporting Polanski until the U.S. courts have come to a definitive ruling on the case.