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Director Polanski granted $4.5m bail, house arrest likely

A criminal court said Roman Polanski would be subjected to ‘constant electronic surveillance’ at his chalet in the Alps. A criminal court said Roman Polanski would be subjected to ‘constant electronic surveillance’ at his chalet in the Alps.
By Bradley S. Klapper
Associated Press / November 26, 2009

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GENEVA - Roman Polanski was granted $4.5 million bail yesterday, clearing the way for the fugitive director to move within days from a Swiss jail to house arrest and electronic monitoring at his Alpine resort chalet.

The Swiss justice minister said she saw no reason to appeal the surprise decision by the Swiss Criminal Court. Polanski would have to remain in Switzerland as authorities assess whether to extradite him to the United States for having sex in Los Angeles in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl.

Ministry spokesman Folco Galli said the final decision on transferring Polanski to his chalet in the Swiss resort of Gstaad would be made quickly.

“The 76-year-old appellant is married and the father of two minors,’’ the court said as it considered Polanski’s offer of a cash bail secured by his apartment in Paris. “It can be assumed that as a responsible father he will, especially in view of his advanced age, attach greater importance to the financial security of his family than a younger person.’’

The court said Polanski would be subjected to “constant electronic surveillance’’ at his chalet and an alarm would be activated if he leaves the premises or takes off the bracelet, adding that the filmmaker was still viewed as a high flight risk.

Polanski’s lawyers, Lorenz Erni in Zurich, Herve Temime in Paris, and Chad Hummel in Los Angeles, declined to comment. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office also had no reaction, spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said.

The decision came as a surprise after a series of setbacks for the director of “Rosemary’s Baby,’’ and “Chinatown.’’

The Swiss Justice Ministry ordered Polanski arrested on Sept. 26 as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award at a film festival.

Swiss legal specialists had said earlier that Polanski’s chances of bail were slim, and even US authorities expressed confidence a Swiss court wouldn’t grant his release.

The court last month rejected Polanski’s first bail offer of his Gstaad chalet as collateral, which the director claimed made up more than half of his personal wealth and would definitely guard against his flight because he has two children he must support through school.

The court demanded cash instead, and this time looked favorably on Polanski’s offer of a bank guarantee and the threat of sacrificing his family’s home if he fled justice.

A decision on extraditing Polanski to Los Angeles is still pending, and would also be subject to appeals.

For the duration of the procedures, it appears Polanski will be confined to his $1.6 million chalet surrounded by snowcapped peaks on the outskirts of Gstaad, one of the most exclusive winter resorts in the world. Celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Roger Moore have called the town home, and it remains popular with celebrities and royalty.

Polanski was accused of raping the 13-year-old girl after plying her with champagne and a Quaalude pill during a modeling shoot in 1977. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting, and sodomy.

At the time, Polanski pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse. In exchange, the judge agreed to drop the remaining charges and sentence him to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. The evaluator released Polanski after 42 days, but the judge said he was going to send him back to serve out the 90 days.

Polanski then fled the country on Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was to be sentenced, and has lived in France since.

Polanski claims the judge and prosecutors acted improperly. A California Appeals Court will listen to oral arguments from his attorneys next month. They will urge the court to order a lower court to decide whether to dismiss charges against the fugitive director.