Roman Polanski may have Hollywood on his side, but he’s not betting on Tinseltown to get him out the clink.
The prominent fugitive-director has hired Steptoe & Johnson’s Reid Weingarten, a well-known criminal defense lawyer and close friend of Attorney General Eric Holder.
Polanski, 76, was arrested last weekend at Zurich’s airport on a 31-year-old fugitive warrant issued after he skipped sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. The addition of Weingarten, who has known Holder since the two worked together in the department’s Public Integrity Section in the 1970s, means Polanski now has a powerful advocate in Washington.
The New York Times reports:
The recruiting of Mr. Weingarten was a strong signal that Mr. Polanski’s legal team intends to push hard on the Washington end of the case. Mr. Polanski was arrested on his way to the Zurich Film Festival after Swiss authorities received a letter from the Department of Justice requesting that he be held for possible extradition to the United States.
The Justice Department wrote the letter on behalf of Los Angeles prosecutors. Polanski fled the United States in 1978 after pleading guilty to having sex with a minor. As part of a plea agreement, he avoided other charges, including rape and sodomy. But he was never sentenced.
Weingarten, who declined to comment, will be instrumental in Polanski’s efforts to stop the extradition before the issue wends through the Swiss legal system. As the Times notes, Polanski could argue that his crime does not qualify, because he was sentenced to less than a year in prison, or that he effectively served his sentence during a 42-day psychiatric evaluation.
Weingarten advised Holder during the confirmation process, and he represented Holder in congressional hearings that explored the then-Deputy Attorney General’s role in the controversial pardon by President Clinton of fugitive financier Marc Rich. Weingarten also helped Holder in the founding of the See Forever Foundation, which helps disadvantaged children.