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Polanski Saga Turns: Former Prosecutor Says He Lied

By Caleb Groos on October 02, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The saga of Roman Polanski's sex crime in 1977 and recent arrest took yet another turn this week. A former prosecutor, whose interview plays a large part in an influential documentary about the case, now says he made the whole thing up.

The line between film and life was already blurred when a documentary film intervened to bolster legal arguments that the director of Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby got an unfair trial more than 30 years ago. Now it turns out that fiction in that documentary could prevent the charges against Polanski from being thrown out.

In Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, former Malibu, California prosecutor David Wells spoke at length about issues which Polanski's lawyers seized upon as evidence that the famous director's trial was improper.

Now that Polanski's lawyers have cited those statements in requests to have the charges against dropped, Wells says he made it all up.

Check out his less than graceful explanation to Wolf Blitzer (which contains an excerpt from the documentary):

Though he was not part of the trial, Wells previously claimed that he discussed with Judge Laurence Rittenband the predicament surrounding Polanski's sentencing and suggested the somewhat dubious route taken by the judge.

As he previously stated, the problem was that any sentence involving jail time would be appealed, but media frenzy made the judge hesitant to set Polanski free.

The solution Wells claimed in the documentary to have offered Judge Rittenband: send Polanski to Chino State Penitentiary for an additional 90 day extended psychiatric "evaluation." (Polanski had already received a court appointed psychiatric evaluation which found him not to be a mentally deranged sex offender.)

The problem with all this? Judge's may not consult with other prosecutors about an ongoing case and brainstorm a decision together.

Psychiatric evaluation also cannot be used as a punishment.

Additionally, Wells claimed to have shown Judge Rittenband a photo of Polanski, in which he looked to be living it up at a beer garden after receiving permission of the court to work on a film. Wells claimed to have nudged the judge that Polanski was taunting him. According to Wells now, that was also untrue.

Wells explains that because the documentary was being made for French TV, he never thought it would air in the US. He said what he said in order to "liven it up a little." Looking back at it, he says it was a bad thing to do (though he nonetheless criticizes the documentary for containing misstatements).

When he feared that charges against Polanski might be dropped, Wells approached the District Attorney's office, said he had lied, and offered to give a new statement.

What's the upshot for the case against Polanski? If he proves unable to prevent extradition from Switzerland, and eventually ends up in a California court, the court will have fewer reasons to drop the charges against him. His attorney's, however, claim that there is evidence of judicial misconduct beyond what Wells said on film.

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