26.08.2020 Europe

US court rejects disgraced Polanski's bid to rejoin Oscar Academy

© AFP/File
LISTEN AUG 26, 2020
© AFP/File

Film director Roman Polanski's legal battle against his expulsion from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was thrown out by a Los Angeles judge on Tuesday.

Polanski fled the United States in 1978 after admitting to the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl.

The director of Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby was expelled from the Los Angeles-based Academy, which awards the Oscars, four decades later against the background of the #MeToo movement, and filed a legal petition to force the prestigious organisation to reverse its decision.

But Los Angeles superior court judge Mary Strobel found the Academy board "had cause to expel" Polanski, and that its decision "is supported by the evidence" and "was not arbitrary or capricious".

Polanski "was given the opportunity to present any evidence" on the matter of whether he "should or should not remain a member of the Academy in light of his criminal conviction and fugitive status".

Not welcome in Hollywood

Polanski is persona non grata in Hollywood, and cannot return to the US for fear of arrest.

The French-Polish director admitted the statutory rape of Samantha Geimer in a plea bargain in 1977 to avoid a trial on more serious charges.

But he fled to France the following year after serving 42 days in jail when it appeared a judge was reconsidering his release.

"The problem Roman has obtaining justice in Los Angeles is that all the judges cover for each other's misconduct," Polanski's lawyer Harland Braun told French news agency AFP following Tuesday's ruling.

"All Roman asked for is a fair process."
Polanski, now 87, was awarded the Academy's best director Oscar while still living in self-imposed exile in 2003 for The Pianist.

But he was expelled from the Academy along with Bill Cosby in 2018, at a time when Hollywood was facing a reckoning over historic sexual harassment and abuse.

In the wake of Weinstein

The Academy board voted to expel Polanski under a procedure for enforcing Standards of Conduct that it adopted in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Polanski claimed the Academy had failed to follow its own procedures, or California law, in its decision.

"We are pleased the court confirmed that the Academy's procedures regarding Mr Polanski were fair and reasonable," an Academy spokesperson told AFP on Tuesday.

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