Key Figure in Polanski Documentary Says He Lied
LOS ANGELES – A former prosecutor said Wednesday he lied when he told a documentary film crew that he advised a judge handling Roman Polanski's sex case that he should send the director to prison.
The statement later became part of the basis for a move by Polanski's attorneys to dismiss the case against the fugitive director who was arrested in Switzerland on Saturday.
PHOTOS: Anatomy of a Sex Scandal.
"They interviewed me in the Malibu courthouse when I was still a DA, and I embellished a story," David F. Wells said in an interview with The Associated Press about his statements to the makers of "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired."
"I'm a guy who cuts to the chase — I lied. It embarrasses the hell of me." he said.
Wells, 71, did not handle Polanski's case but was assigned to the courtroom where it was heard and had frequent interactions with the judge.
Wells said he was sorry about making the comments for the documentary.
"I cost the DA's office a lot of money and aggravation over this," said Wells, who retired as a prosecutor more than two years ago.
Polanski was accused of plying a 13-year-old girl with champagne and Quaaludes during a modeling shoot in 1977 and raping her. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy.
Facing life in prison if convicted, he agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse. In exchange, the judge agreed to drop the remaining charges and commute his sentence to the 42 days already served.
But Polanski fled the country Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was scheduled to be sentenced, after learning the judge told lawyers he planned to add more prison time to the sentence.
Polanski's attorneys later argued in a motion to dismiss the case that the communications between the judge and Wells were clear misconduct and violated Polanski's constitutional rights.
That motion was dismissed because Polanski was a fugitive at the time, though the judge acknowledged "substantial misconduct" in the original case. The matter is now in the hands of an appeals court.
One of Polanski's attorneys, Chad Hummel, declined to comment on Wells' comments. District Attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said the office also had no comment.
Marina Zenovich, who directed the film, did not return a phone message seeking comment.
Wells said he overstated his actions to the filmmakers because he was told the documentary would air in France, not the United States. The documentary aired on HBO.
In the documentary, Wells is depicted as conferring with the now-deceased trial judge Laurence J. Rittenband about Polanski's case. Wells says in the film the judge took his advice in deciding to renege on a plea bargain and give Polanski additional prison time.
"I made that up to make the stuff look better," Wells said. His admission was first reported in a story by former O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark on the Web site The Daily Beast.
Polanski's victim, Samantha Geimer, who long ago identified herself, has joined in Polanski's bid for dismissal. She testified at the time that Polanski forced himself on her — which he acknowledged in his guilty plea — but has said she forgives him and wants the ordeal to be over.
Wells said he would testify in court that he lied and has offered to give a sworn declaration to prosecutors about his actions, in case they need it. No one from the district attorney's office has contacted him since he made the offer several months ago, he said.
Wells said he showed Rittenband a copy of a newspaper that pictured Polanski with girls at an Oktoberfest event. Wells said he never talked about potential sentences and the judge would have seen the paper anyway.
Wells said he still believes Polanski should receive a much stiffer sentence.