Director Roman Polanski faced a new accusation last week from a British actress who claims she was just 16 when he sexually assaulted her. The director is currently facing extradition to the US on child sex charges in an unrelated case.
Charlotte Lewis, who appeared in Polanski’s 1986 film Pirates, came forward to claim that she was abused by Polanski "in the worst possible way" at his home in Paris in 1982, while he was a fugitive from his 1977 rape trial in the US.
Ms. Lewis, who appeared at a press conference in Los Angeles with the celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, said that she was coming forward to make sure that the film director "faced justice" as he fights extradition proceedings from Switzerland.
The actress, who made her screen debut in the television seriesGrange Hill in 1978 and went on to appear in The Golden Childwith Eddie Murphy in 1986 and in a string of other lesser-known films, claimed that the director "forced himself upon me" in his apartment in Paris.
Ms. Allred said that her client was "ready to testify under oath if and when that is necessary".
Ms. Lewis, who read from a prepared statement, said that she had traveled from London to give a statement to prosecutors in Los Angeles. She wanted them to know that the 1977 alleged rape over which Polanski is fighting extradition was "not an isolated incident" as portrayed by Polanski’s lawyers.
"I am also a victim of Roman Polanski. He sexually abused me in the worst possible way when I was just 16 years old, four years after he fled the United States to avoid sentencing for his crimes," she said.
"Mr. Polanski knew I was only 16 years old when he met me and forced himself upon me in his apartment in Paris. He took advantage of me and I have lived with the effects of his behavior ever since it occurred."
Ms. Lewis said that she was coming forward to because she wanted to ensure that the director "gets what he deserves". She said that the attack on her had similarities with Polanski’s alleged rape of a 13-year-old aspiring model in 1977, but declined to give details. She also declined to say what effect the assault had had on her life.
Ms. Allred said she hoped that her client’s testimony would affect sentencing for Polanski, but last night it was not clear what influence an alleged crime committed in France could have on Polanski’s case, should he be extradited.
LA prosecutors confirmed that they had met Ms. Lewis on Thursday.
In 1992 Ms. Lewis starred opposite James Spader in Storyville.
She also featured on the front page of the July 1993 issue of Playboy magazine, floating in a red bikini.
Her 1995 co-starring role in Men of War alongside Dolph Lundgren is considered her most memorable film.
According to the Internet Movie Database, her last film was Hey DJ in 2003.
Ms. Allred said that the attack on her client had had "a major impact on her life". She did not rule out a law suit against Polanski in the future.
Ms. Allred is a leading Hollywood lawyer with a roster of celebrity clients. In the wake of Tiger Woods’s fall from grace, she emerged as the representative of at least two of his mistresses: the nightlife promoter Rachel Uchitel and the porn star Joslyn James.
Asked if Ms. Lewis was "shopping for a book deal", the attorney replied: "Next question."
Polanski pleaded guilty in 1978 to unlawful sexual intercourse with Samantha Geimer. He was accused of giving her champagne and drugs and raping her at the home of the actor Jack Nicholson back in 1977.
But he fled the country before sentencing, fearing that the judge would renege on a plea agreement limiting his punishment to the 42 days he already had spent behind bars for psychiatric evaluation.
The director of Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby has since lived as a fugitive in Europe, continuing his film career while facing the prospect of being arrested the moment he set foot back on US soil. In 2003 he won an Oscar for best director for the acclaimed Holocaust film The Pianist.
His latest film, Ghost, has received widespread critical acclaim and won him the Best Director Prize at the Berlin film festival in February.
Polanski was taken into custody in Switzerland in September on a US warrant and remains there under house arrest at his home in Gstaad on $4.5 million bail. This week a California state appeals court ruled that Polanski must return before he can be sentenced.
The decision cleared the way for Swiss authorities to extradite the 78-year-old film-maker. His lawyers have fought for years to have the case thrown out on ground that Polanski was himself a victim of judicial misconduct in 1978.
Polanski has argued that the extradition request is politically motivated by a Los Angeles prosecutor who is seeking publicity.
Polanski’s US legal team released a statement saying: "We don’t have any information about statements made at a Gloria Allred press conference today, but we do know that our District Attorney continues to refuse to provide the Swiss government with accurate and complete information relevant to the extradition issue."
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