A retired prosecutor whose revelations in a recent documentary on Roman Polanski highlighted serious irregularities in the filmmaker's 1977 child sex trial now says he lied about the case, the Los Angeles Times reported.
David Wells, 71, said in the documentary "Roman Polanski: wanted and desired" that he had talked with the judge in the famous case before he rendered a sentence and told him that the Paris-born director deserved prison.
After the documentary aired on US cable channel HBO, Polanski's lawyers seized on Wells's revelations and said in court documents that he and the judge, Laurence Rittenband, engaged in misconduct by wrongly discussing the case in private, the Times reported.
The alleged meeting took place when Polanski was awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl. Afraid of being condemned to a long prison sentence, Polanski fled the United States in January 1978.
"That was not true," Wells told The Times, referring to the closed-door meeting.
"I like to speak of it as an inept statement, but the reality is that it was a lie."
Wells, who at the time was not the assigned prosecutor in the case, told the newspaper he had invented the story because he thought the documentary would not air in the United States.
Judge Rittenband died in 1993.
Wells told the Times he notified the district attorney's office earlier this year that he had lied, and apologized, but said he decided to go public with his announcement after Polanski's weekend arrest.
The Oscar-winning director, regarded as a fugitive by US authorities, was detained in Switzerland on Saturday, causing shockwaves in political and cultural circles.
The prosecutor's office in Los Angeles has said he would seek Polanski's extradition.
The US press, liberal and conservative, has recoiled in shock at European support for Polanski.
"To hear the protests from the French, the Poles and other Europeans, you might have thought the filmmaker was seized by some totalitarian regime for speaking truth to power," a New York Times editorial said.
"Yet where is the injustice in bringing to justice someone who pleads guilty to statutory rape and then goes on the lam, no matter how talented he may be?" the editorial asked.
Polanski fled the United States in 1978 after being convicted of illegal sexual relations with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. He has never set foot back in the United States since, not even when he won an Oscar in 2003 for "The Pianist."
The New York Times said it was "glad to see other prominent Europeans beginning to point out that this case has nothing to do with Mr. Polanski?s work or his age. It is about an adult preying on a child. Mr. Polanski pleaded guilty to that crime and must account for it."
On the west coast, The Los Angeles Times, known for many liberal stands, has no love for Polanski or his supporters. "Polanski's defenders lose sight of the true victim," one of its editorials read.
"To hear these people tell it, you'd think Polanski was the victim rather than the teenager," wrote Steve Lopez.
"I'd like to show all these great luminaries the testimony from Polanski's underage victim, as well as Polanski's admission of guilt. Then I'd like to ask whether, if the victim were their daughter, they'd be so cavalier about a crime that was originally charged as sodomy and rape before Polanski agreed to a plea bargain," he added.
"There may well have been judicial misconduct," Lopez added. "But no misconduct was greater than allowing Polanski to cop a plea to the least of his charges.
"His crime was graphic, manipulative and heinous, and he got a pass. It's unbelievable, really, that his soft-headed apologists are rooting for him to get another one."
Source: AFP Global Edition