A Swiss official says Roman Polanski can only be sentenced to two years in prison in the U.S. for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl. Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli told Europe-1 radio that Polanski could only serve time in California for crimes included in a U.S. extradition request filed late Thursday. Galli didn’t say specifically whether Polanski was being pursued for fleeing justice in 1978. But he said Polanski declared himself guilty to sexual relations with a minor and the maximum sentence for that crime is two years.
Los Angeles authorities couldn’t immediately be reached Friday for verification. Switzerland said Friday it had received a U.S. extradition request for Polanski. A copy wasn’t made public.
Police in Switzerland took Oscar-winning director into custody on statutory rape charges that the director has been avoiding for more than thirty years. Polanski, now 76, pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a 13-year-old in 1977 in the United States, but fled the country before he could be sentenced and a warrant for his arrest was issued in 1978. He had been living in France ever since. However, one defense attorney believes the director’s freedom is imminent.
“There was a valid arrest request and we knew when he was coming,” ministry spokesman Guido Balmer told The Associated Press. “That’s why he was taken into custody.”
Balmer said the U.S. would now have to make a formal extradition request.
Polanski was scheduled to receive an honorary award at the festival when he was apprehended Saturday at the airport, the Swiss Justice Ministry said in a statement. It said U.S. authorities have sought the arrest of the 76-year-old director around the world since 2005.
Polanski fled the U.S. in 1978, a year after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with the underage girl. The director of such classic films as “Chinatown” and “Rosemary’s Baby” has asked a U.S. appeals court in California to overturn a judges’ refusal to throw out his case. He claims misconduct by the now-deceased judge who had arranged a plea bargain and then reneged on it.