Hope springs eternal among those bent on getting to the bottom of the Roman Polanski sex case. On Monday morning, two writer/journalists, Sam Wasson and William Rempel, are now hoping that Judge Sergio Tapia II of the Los Angeles County Superior Court will look kindly on their request to unseal some critical evidence in the convoluted case–that is, the transcripts of 2010 conditional testimony by one of the original prosecutors, Roger Gunson.
It would be remarkable if Judge Tapia were to agree, given the court’s prior refusal to unseal the testimony at Polanski’s request, or to proceed with any of several challenges to judicial and prosecutorial behavior in the case until Polanski returns to the United States, from which he has been a fugitive since 1978. But you never know.
In very short form, Polanski fled on the eve of sentencing by Judge Laurence Rittenband on a guilty plea to having had unlawful sex with a minor. The filmmaker had already spent time in state prison for a psychiatric examination, which Rittenband initially said would be the extent of his jail time. According to Polanski’s then-lawyer Douglas Dalton, Rittenband reversed course just before sentencing, telling both Dalton and prosecutor Gunson that criticism in the press and elsewhere had persuaded him to make a public show of sentencing Polanski to further prison time, while privately promising to mitigate the sentence later in return for Polanski’s agreement to be deported.
In 2010, facing questions about his health, Gunson testified on a conditional basis about Rittenband’s conduct. The testimony has since remained sealed, and was not provided to courts in Switzerland and Poland, as they reviewed the case and declined extradition requests in recent years.
Those who have fought to open the transcripts in the past believed they would confirm the impropriety of Rittenband’s behavior. Wasson and Rempel, according to a filing by their attorney, John Washington, are interested not in Polanski’s crime, but in the public’s right to know about the operation of its courts.
“This motion is not about Mr. Polanski’s conduct nor his own prior attempts to have these transcripts unsealed,” the filing said. “It is, however, about writers’, reporters’ and the public’s right to understand what has happened in their courts, and to access documents relevant to do so.”
Wasson is the author of The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood. Rempel is an investigative reporter who worked for decades at the Los Angeles Times.
The District Attorney’s office has asked more time to file a full response to the motion. But, according to the court’s Web site, Judge Tapia is still scheduled to consider the matter in Dept. 100 of the Foltz Criminal Courts building in downtown Los Angeles at 8:30 a.m. on Monday.