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UPDATE-Former prosecutor, filmmaker at odds over statement on Polanski in documentary

October 1, 2009

A retired L.A. prosecutor has admitted that he lied when he said in a documentary film that he advised the judge in Roman Polanski’s 1977 case to send the director to prison.


The documentary in question, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” is cited by Polanski’s defenders as evidence that he was the victim of judicial misconduct.

In the 2008 HBO documentary from filmmaker Marina Zenovich, former prosecutor David Wells said that he told the late Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Laurence Rittenband that Polanski deserved prison time, instead of being released on the 42 days already spent in custody under a deal with prosecutors.

But Wells recanted his account of those events from more than 30 years ago, in a brief interview with the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. 

“That was not true,” Wells told the paper. “I like to speak of it as an inept statement, but the reality is that it was a lie.”

Wells’ also spoke to a writer with news website The Daily Beast, which was first to report his comments on Wednesday.

And here’s the update: Zenovich said in a statement on Thursday that she was “perplexed” by the timing of Wells’ latest statement that he lied in the documentary, noting that the movie has been widely available since June 2008, and that Wells has voiced little displeasure with what he said in the film until now, after Polanski’s arrest in Switzerland.

“Mr. Wells was always friendly and open with me,” Zenovich said.

“At no point in the four years since our interview has he ever raised any issues about its content.  In fact, in a July 2008 story in The New York Times, Mr. Wells corroborated the account of events that he gave in my film. I am astonished that he has now changed his story,” he said.

Polanski’s supporters say that because Wells was not the assigned prosecutor in the case, and because his alleged conversation with the judge took place behind closed doors, it shows that Polanski’s case was mishandled. Wells has previously distanced himself from his statements in “Wanted and Desired,” but his supposed involvement in the case is not the only instance of judicial irregularity that the documentary film presents.

Will this change anything in Polanski’s case? If anything, it makes the future seem a little more bleak for the “Chinatown” director, because a leg in his defense has just been kicked out, or at least kicked loose.


Let’s face it, this isn’t even really a defence. There doesn’t appear to be any doubt over whether or not he is guilty. If indeed he does get away with it in the end it will be down a small legal technicality.

Drag his ass back to the States, lock him up and throw away the key!

Posted by Jens | Report as abusive

Its pretty clear cut what happen. The Grandjury indicted him on 6 charges link to his sexual misconduct. The Judge allowed him to plea to a lessor charge and drop the 6 handed down by the grandjury, but informed him that he wasn’t going to do the “time served” for his 42 days of observation as his sentence. Polanski understood this and plead guilty to the lessor charge, and set him a date for sentencing. Polanski ran at that time. Been a fugitive ever since.

So Polanski only has to go before a judge and to get sentenced and do his time. Not very confusing. Shouldnt be any bumps in the road as long as the sentencing Judge does his job. ! for his crime that he plead guilty to, and for being on the run for so long. At least 15 years, where he will get out after doing like 8-10.

Posted by Charles | Report as abusive

I normally don’t waste my time of this kind of thing, but the case is long well over. He paid the girl off, she forgave him. It’s done, leave him alone and get to the real business at hand – that of catching real criminals for a change.

Posted by Frank | Report as abusive

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