Roman Polanski judge urged to reject sentence in absentia

LOS ANGELES Fri Jan 15, 2010 9:54pm EST

Polish director Roman Polanski attends a news conference for the film ''Chacun son Cinema'' at the 60th Cannes Film Festival, May 20, 2007. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Polish director Roman Polanski attends a news conference for the film ''Chacun son Cinema'' at the 60th Cannes Film Festival, May 20, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles prosecutors on Friday urged a judge to reject film director Roman Polanski's request to be sentenced in his absence for a 1977 sex crime, saying he was a fugitive who should not be able to dictate his case from afar.

In papers filed with Los Angeles Superior court, they also argued Polanski -- who is under house arrest in Switzerland -- should not be treated differently because he was a celebrity.

"The defendant is a fugitive," wrote prosecutor David Walgren. "The defendant should not, indeed must not, be allowed to dictate to this court or any other court, under what terms these proceedings should proceed. Mr. Polanski must surrender."

Polanski, 76, was arrested in Switzerland in September on a U.S. warrant and is fighting extradition.

Walgren was responding to a request from the Oscar-winning director of "The Pianist" last week that the Los Angeles court sentence him in absentia on a 1977 charge of unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

A full hearing is scheduled for January 22.

Last month, a California appeals court suggested that sentencing Polanski in absentia would be one way to resolve the decades-long battle to bring him to justice.

Polanski fled the United States in 1978 after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor. He said he feared the judge was going to renege on an agreement to sentence him to the 42 days he had already served behind bars.

Swiss authorities have said they will make a decision on extradition in early 2010.

Walgren said a fair judicial system "mandates that criminals, even those with celebrity status and wealthy means, abide by lawful court orders."

Sentencing Polanski in his absence would set a "horrible precedent" for future cases, he said.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Todd Eastham)

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