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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Roman Polanski's legal team has launched a new bid to resolve the movie director's 1977 rape case and allow him to return to the United States without serving any more jail time.
Harland Braun, the Los Angeles attorney for the Oscar-winning director, said on Thursday that Polanski wishes to be able to travel freely and to visit the grave of his wife, Sharon Tate, who was murdered in Los Angeles by followers of Charles Manson in 1969.
Braun said he had written to the judge in Polanski's California case and a Feb. 24 hearing has been set.
The case of French-Polish Polanski, 83, remains a cause celebre after four decades. He pleaded guilty in Los Angeles in 1977 to having sex with a 13-year-old girl and served 42 days in jail after a plea bargain, but later fled the United States, fearing a lengthy jail sentence if the agreement was overruled.
Both Poland and Switzerland have overruled U.S. requests for Polanski's extradition in the past seven years.
Braun has now asked Los Angeles Superior Court judge Scott Gordon to unseal testimony from the prosecutor in the 1977 case.
The unsealed testimony, along decisions in Poland and Switzerland, should establish that Polanski did cut a deal in 1977 and that he owes no more time in custody, Braun said.
"Between the Swiss court decision and the Polish decision ... it has now been judicially determined that Roman owes no more custody time. Therefore, if the Los Angeles District Attorney and Court recognise these decisions as they should, he can return to LA to conclude the case without fear of being thrown in jail," Braun said.
Samantha Geimer, the victim in the case, has long made clear she believes Polanski's self-imposed exile has been punishment enough.
Polanski's movie career has flourished despite the rape case hanging over him. In 2002, he won an Oscar for directing the Holocaust film "The Pianist" but did not travel to the United States to collect it.
Last month, however, he withdrew from heading the jury at France's Cesar film awards, the country's equivalent of the Oscars, after an outcry from women's groups over what they said was France's "scandalous protection" of Polanski.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Nick Zieminski