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California court orders unsealing of documents in Roman Polanski case

The Oscar-winning director, 88, fled to France before a sentencing hearing after he pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor in 1977. He has remained a fugitive since.
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Roman Polanski at the Cinergia European Cinema Forum in Poland in 2019.Artur Widak / NurPhoto via Getty Images

A California appeals court Wednesday ordered the unsealing of documents in the criminal case against director Roman Polanski, who has been a fugitive since he fled to France after he pleaded guilty in 1977 to unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

The order was issued after Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón sent a letter to the court rescinding his opposition to releasing the documents, his office announced Wednesday. 

The court ordered that the conditional deposition transcript of Roger Gunson, the original prosecutor in the case, be released, Gascón’s office said. Two authors, Sam Wasson and William Rempel, had asked the court to unseal the 2010 transcript, according to the court.

Polanski’s agent in Los Angeles, Jeff Berg, declined to comment.

Polanski, 88, who won the Academy Award for best director for “The Pianist” in 2003, fled to France before a sentencing hearing and has remained a fugitive since then. France, Switzerland and Poland have rejected bids to extradite him to the U.S.

Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski in 1969.James Jackson / Evening Standard / Getty Images

During Polanski’s trial, the victim, Samantha Geimer, testified that Polanski gave her Champagne and part of a sedative pill before he raped her during a photo shoot at Jack Nicholson’s home in March 1977, when Nicholson wasn’t home.

In 2017, Geimer asked a judge in Los Angeles to end the case, calling it a "40-year-sentence" for both her and the director, but the request was denied.

Polanski has long asserted that there was judicial misconduct. His lawyers have pushed to unseal the testimony, and Geimer has also requested it, having recently urged the DA's office to revisit the case.

The DA's office had objected to releasing the documents, but it rescinded the objection in an apparent bid to fulfill Geimer’s wishes.

In a statement, Gascón said: “We are pleased the appellate court agreed with both the victim and our office about the need for transparency.

“The court’s decision helped us move toward upholding our responsibility to tell the public the truth, and to listen to survivors," he said, adding, "We hope it gives her a small measure of assurance that eventually, she can have some measure of closure in this decades-long litigation.”

Geimer was "grateful" for the court’s decision, Gascón's office said. According to his office, she said, "It's never too late to do the right thing."

It wasn’t immediately clear how soon the documents will be unsealed.