Patterico's Pontifications


Former Prosecutor Says He Lied in Documentary; Claims He Committed No Misconduct

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:33 pm

Marcia Clark (Marcia Clark!) reports at the Daily Beast that the prosecutor who said in that documentary that he told the judge how to sentence Roman Polanski is now saying that he lied:

I just spoke to Wells—and what he told me is going to make things worse for Polanski.

“I lied,” Wells told me yesterday, referring to his comments in the movie that he told the judge how he could renege on a plea bargain agreement and send Polanski back to jail after he had been released from a 42-day psychiatric evalation—the heart of Polanski’s claims of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct. “I know I shouldn’t have done it, but I did. The director of the documentary told me it would never air in the States. I thought it made a better story if I said I’d told the judge what to do.”

. . . .

So he didn’t advise him on a strategy for how to send Polanski back for more prison—a clear ethical violation — after all parties, including Judge Rittenband himself, had ostensibly agreed to let the 42 days suffice? “No. It never happened,” he said flatly.

Hat-tip to countless e-mailers.

If you are my friend and you get me alone over a beer, I’ll be happy to share with you my opinions about this. I have plenty to say — in private.

Just not on the blog.

But you guys? Talk all you like.

UPDATE: The New York Times reports version number three (technically number two; today’s was number three):

In a July 2008 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Wells stood by his claims in the documentary, and at the time said his discussions with the judge were not improper. ’’I didn’t tell him to do it or that he should do it,’’ Mr. Wells said of the judge’s decision to put Mr. Polanski in prison for 42 days for psychiatric review. ’’I just told him what his options were.’’

No comment. But you may comment away.

49 Responses to “Former Prosecutor Says He Lied in Documentary; Claims He Committed No Misconduct”

  1. Why do I get the feeling that this story will just keep getting weirder and more bizarre as the days go by? It hasn’t even been a week, yet all this coming down – what shoe will drop next? Polanski will be revealed as a continuing pedo – perve in Europe?

    Dmac (5ddc52)

  2. Here is a thought problem for Annie Applebum. Lying in some eurogoofball documentary. Anally raping a little girl. Which is more wronger and why? Show your work.

    happyfeet (6b707a)

  3. Lying is unethical, too, isn’t it?

    DRJ (b008f8)

  4. Happyfeet is killing me …

    JD (d3f3ab)

  5. So Polanski will at most get another sentencing hearing.

    Big deal.

    I can’t see how this vitiates the plea especially after the collequy.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  6. With the way Wells seems to be in love with the sound of his own voice, it is amazing that he never ran for elected office.

    AD - RtR/OS! (7148a0)

  7. buh…

    roy (d6fc79)

  8. A trick to get Polanski to let his guard down?

    j curtis (baef6f)

  9. A guy who says he lied before might not be telling the truth now. I don’t think this does anything but obfuscate — and Polanski gains with any obfuscation.

    Kevin Murphy (3c3db0)

  10. 1 – For starters, he’s admitted he’s a liar–so why should we believe him?

    2 – Prosecutors have an ethical duty not to lie.

    3 – Is he changing his story to save his own skin? That makes him sound like a total weasel who will say anything.

    4 – Prosecutors who invent stories about prosecutorial misconduct sully the reputations of everyone else in their office.

    5 – He lied about committing an ethical violation – does that justify professional sanctions from the State Bar?

    Daryl Herbert (21d3d0)

  11. I can see the court keeping the plea bargain, at time served, but then finding him guilty of illegal flight or contempt of court or some such and jailing him for quite a while.

    Kevin Murphy (3c3db0)

  12. A thought experiment: When a witness lies, what juror believes him when he recants? Seems like the same thing could apply here. Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them?

    Regret (0116ce)

  13. Attorneys always cross-examine recanters with that logic: were you lying then or are you lying now? Why should we believe you?

    It seems to me tho a more important question is how did Polanski’s lawyers know of this ex parte communication and the judge’s change of heart? Did I miss something? Or did Polanksi just decide he liked Paris better.

    Patricia (c95a48)

  14. A fuck-up afraid to try his case says it all I think.

    nk (df76d4)

  15. The LA DA had more than one on the payroll back then. One of them even got to sentence Paris Hilton.

    nk (df76d4)

  16. Wells was interviewed for a doc movie, where he made his assertion (see original post above), and that was the source of information for Polanski’s atty’s.

    AD - RtR/OS! (7148a0)

  17. I know AD, but in 1977 what was the basis of his fear that the judge would change the sentence?

    Patricia (c95a48)

  18. The question is what pharmacology regimin was Polanski on at that time?
    Coke was endemic in Hollywood at the time, and we all know how paranoid you can get using that shit.

    AD - RtR/OS! (7148a0)

  19. I always thought it was ironic that when I got on the stand in court, I was the only guy in the room that was under oath to tell the truth ans subject to the penalty of perjury if I did not tell the truth. It was pretty much anything goes for everyone else in the courtroom.

    Stan Switek (d9d8ce)

  20. Oh, and I don’t place any trust in Marcia Clark either. She’s a fuck-up, too. Publicity hungry? You bet. But at least she was not afraid to try at least one case, even though she did not know what she was doing.

    And how about this gem?

    In the documentary, Wells said he’d never thought Polanski got enough of a sentence for raping a 13-year-old girl. And if anyone knew what Polanski had done, it was Wells. He’d been the one who first caught the case, and he’d interviewed the victim, her mother, her brother, and Polanski himself. Because that kind of involvement would have made him a witness if the case went to trial (which lawyers, and especially prosecutors must avoid), Wells was taken off the case and Roger Gunson was assigned.

    The bolded statement is idiotic. A lawyer who interviews potential witnesses does not become a witness.

    nk (df76d4)

  21. nk, you are sooooo picky.
    After OJ, we all know that Marcia has only a very passing relationship to the fine points of lawyering.

    AD - RtR/OS! (7148a0)

  22. And again the sordid chapter of who told what to whom is totally drowning out a child raped?

    I was proud of Susan Estrich column, it cost her money, publicity, speaking engagements, invites to movie opening

    Slammed the man hard.

    Glad to see there is a liberals waters edge

    EricPWJohnson (f0d96e)

  23. I read the story at the link, and his story now seems to be that he left a newspaper article for the judge to anger him. I think this means that his new story is that he committed different misconduct.

    Dishonest prosecutors should be socially shunned and publicly excoriated if the offense isn’t too serious. This sort of nonsense should earn a bar sanction. Who knows what the truth is? This dude doesn’t care at all, assuming the reports are accurate.

    Prosecutors who don’t give a rat’s ass about ethics are evil. Get a different job. I know what the pressures of a high profile case are (though, to be fair, not as high profile as Polanski) and I didn’t think to lie or cheat or try to improperly influence the judge. It’s not that hard, folks. Just don’t.


    JRM (355c21)

  24. Deputy District Attorney,

    It’s one of the aspects in this episode that has disturbed me the most:

    The comfortable – almost carefree – effort to mar the reputation of Judge Rittenband.

    Of course, getting to this point wasn’t easy at all.

    A great deal of effort, time and money by an entrenched establishment has gone into shaping the conventional wisdom that Laurence Rittenband was corrupt, ultimately culminating into a “documentary” meant to sully the judge’s good name.

    What disturbs me even more is that most of this effort was conducted long after the judge passed away.

    I know as much as any member of the US Armed Forces that the reputations of brave, but fallen, men are often used [and abused] by cowardly people to meet dishonorable ends.

    After all, dead men can neither speak in their own defense, nor rally others to their cause. Even their former family and friends, who should know better, can become apathetic – even craven – believing there is no harm in letting a dead man bleed, particularly if their enemies are powerful – and very much alive.

    I have never met Judge Rittenband.

    I don’t know if he did anything wrong technically or morally in the Polanski case.

    But what infuriates me beyond reason is to see the child predator he tried to bring to justice openly prancing on his grave.

    No man deserves that.

    And one of the greatest reasons military men fight so hard for victory is to justify their dead – so that our enemies will never have the satisfaction of prancing on the graves – the memories – of fallen friends and loved ones.

    I don’t know if you feel the same comaradarie in the DA’s office or as a lawyer.

    Maybe most people in your profession think they’re above such “philistine” attitudes.

    Maybe it’s self-righteous; hoping to speak for the dead.

    I only know that if someone doesn’t speak for Judge Rittenband, scum like Roman Polanski and his friends will do it for you.

    If Judge Rittenband was wrong, then let him have his day in court – not just the court of law, but the court of public opinion where his name and his reputation will ultimately be remembered.

    Because if Polanski deserves that right –

    – as his army of supporters incessantly [and hypocritically] reminds us –

    – then certainly Rittenband, who has too long been neglected and forgotten, deserves it as well.

    Rykehaven (2dbbb5)

  25. Also, this is not the first time that the “documentary” has run afoul with the facts.

    Rykehaven (2dbbb5)

  26. I don’t think it’s fair to blame the documentary for this, Rykehaven. The documentary makers committed many sins, but interviewing Wells was not one of them.

    JRM says things well. I think he understands that there are times I need to be careful, but he says things well, doesn’t he?

    Patterico (64318f)

  27. 20/nk

    nk: The bolded statement is idiotic. A lawyer who interviews potential witnesses does not become a witness.

    I’m pretty confident this isn’t idiotic. A lawyer can become a necessary witness.

    Prosecutors with any sense get an investigator or LEO present during witness interviews to prevent becoming a necessary witness. (If a witness changes their story, the prosecutor becomes a relevant witness, and a prosecutor may not testify on her own case.)

    There are exceptions – sometimes a prosecutor will talk to a witness where if the witness is changing their story, the case is going away, anyway. Sometimes on minor cases, the prosecutor will talk to the witness and take the chance (and, as necessary, stipulate to any inconsistent statement.) More frequently, you’ll have non-substantive discussions, or procedural discussions with witnesses; those are fine.

    And sometimes staffing combined with general witness trustworthiness means you take the chance and have the conversation.

    But making oneself a witness is absolutely an issue.


    JRM (355c21)

  28. Wells is the kind of idiot you would regret having to call as your witness.

    Alta Bob (e8af2b)

  29. More fun stuff about our hero, Roman Polanski.

    It’s hearsay…but, still.

    Dave Surls (a85ee5)

  30. #21, 24, 28

    A prosecutor CAN become a necessary witness if he or she is stupid enough to do the interview without recording it independently, and the interview is eligible for use at trial and one side or the other decides to use it. Back in ’77 it was not standard procedure to record interviews in many jurisdictions.

    In California a lawyer CAN appear in a matter where he or she may be a witness under current rules; I don’t know what the rule was in ’77.

    Is dropping a newspaper article ex parte with a judge prohibited ex parte contact? Yes, if it is to communicate a non-judicially noticeable fact, which appears to be what Wells says still happened (recognizing, again, that this post is based on Marcia Clark spouting pure hearsay).

    Of course, none of this stuff vitiates Polanski’s plea bargain, as it occurred AFTER he decided to take the plea. Polanski, when brought before the court, must still be given an appropriate sentence under the law as it was in ’77 for the crime he pled to.

    What this does go to is whether Polanski has a “necessity” or “justification” defense for fleeing the jurisdiction, assuming the LA DA wants to open that can of worms.

    Cyrus Sanai (3b1f29)

  31. I would LOVE to have a chance to talk to Marcia Clark about her career. I imagine she’s got more stories that she knows what to do with. And good grief: I did not remember her being that attractive.

    I’m sorry anyone would have to work with this David Wells character. He has muddied the waters for no good reason. I guess, when a actual rapist could go free, and has been free in public for decades, a lot of people have been acting with no good reason. It takes a lot of people to let that happen.

    Dustin (0bdb72)

  32. I know Rittenband’s old calendar deputy and he told me that Ritteband was a mean son of a bitch who was going to send ole’ Roman in the pen for a long time. exactly what Roman feared. Oh well. he’ll get what old man rittenband meant for him.

    steve ball (8db42c)

  33. “And good grief: I did not remember [Marcia Clark] being that attractive.”

    Dustin, do you remember her being blond?

    By the way, what WAS the plea deal? Was the judge ever committed to any particular sentence?

    Ira (28a423)

  34. No, the judge was not committed to any sentence. Some say he was probably going to get time served or 48 days, but no commitment was made (after all, the sentencing hearing did not occur) The best I heard was that it was pending a psychiatric evaluation when Polanski fled. Judging from his comments about how everyone wants to do what he did, it’s clear he is a sociopath who needs constant supervision, so I think he knew his eval was going to be poor.

    I googled Ms Clark and learned she is on TV a lot, which explains why she looks so polished. I remember her as having dark hair. She’s a hero for living through the OJ trial, though I always thought they did a poor job of it.

    Dustin (0bdb72)

  35. This has all the earmarks of a Law and Order plot. We can expect a “ripped from the headlines” episode a couple of months after Wells’ maybe/maybe not ex parte discussion final plot twist ends this sorry saga. If David Wells is a White Christian male, he will of course be blamed for the whole thing.

    Patricia (c95a48)

  36. The sentencing range of the stat rape charge is 16 months (low term), 2 years (mid term) and 3 years (high term). At half time, which is what good time credits are about, that would turn out to be 8 months, 1 year or a year and a half. Child molestation would have brought a larger range.

    Alta Bob (e8af2b)

  37. The sentencing range of the stat rape charge is 16 months (low term), 2 years (mid term) and 3 years (high term).

    And in 1978?

    Patterico (64318f)

  38. Since Polanski’s a French citizen you could also sentence him to watching Jerry Lewis movies as part of the punishment, or would that violate the 8th Amendment?

    daleyrocks (718861)

  39. I only have Deering’s to 1991. Maybe I can find something, though.

    Dustin (0bdb72)

  40. Thank you, JRM and Cyrus. It was idiotic of me not to see right away that Wells’s interview of Polanski would definitely make him a witness. As for the victim and the bystanders … I was astounded, during the OJ trial, at the latitude that existed for collateral impeachment of witnesses.

    nk (df76d4)

  41. I found a few Law Review articles from the early 80s that cite this law in part, but I can’t find and actual direct quotation of CAL. PENAL CODE § 261.5(c) from 1978.

    If anyone has seen this, I’d love to be pointed in the right direction.

    Dustin (0bdb72)

  42. Here is Polanski’s presentence report. I have not read it.

    As I understand it, statutory rape in California at that time was a “wobbler”, it could be either a felony or misdemeanor, but Polanski pleaded guilty to the felony offense. I also believe that the cut off date for indeterminate sentencing was July 1, 1977 (commission of offense) so technically Polanski could have been sentenced to one to twenty years in prison or any range in between with earlier release being up to the parole board.

    nk (df76d4)

  43. No cheers for Estrich with her selective outrage. She was a leading defender of Clinton regarding his rapes of Juanita Broaderick and Elizabeth Ward-Gracen as well as his assaults on Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones. She routinely invoked her own alleged victim status to deny, revile and mock these victims of her hero and benefactor, Bill Clinton who staged his assaults in the Oval Office itself. She is an odious hypocrite unless and until she extends the outrage she claims to feel towards the most famous rapist in the world, William Jefferson Clinton.

    megapotamus (385961)

  44. Cyrus/30:

    In criminal cases, defense lawyers who are trying the case are disfavored as witnesses, but there is no bar to it.

    Prosecutors can’t testify on their own case at trial, period. I’ve sort of been in this position – I did a prelim on short notice for another deputy, interviewed the witness with someone else present (I’m not an idiot), and then the witness, uh, forgot a lot on the stand. (No points for guessing what sort of case this was.)

    I wrote up the interview and it was supplied to the defense as a witness statement. I could not have tried that case and testified; a prosecutor may not argue his own credibility. But I could have testified and the other prosecutor could argue my credibility. (The case resolved.)


    JRM (355c21)

  45. JRM says things well. I think he understands that there are times I need to be careful, but he says things well, doesn’t he?

    Yes he does. I’d only add two things, that prosecutors who don’t give a damn about ethics an violate them should be severely punished, and other prosecutors who know of such abuses yet do nothing should also be punished.

    Thanks for all the information on this one Petterico.

    Steve Verdon (4c0bd6)

  46. I like the steve’s that are not douchebags.

    JD (e5299a)

  47. after mulling it over I have decided that Mr. Wells is a creative genius at duping crooked old lecherous
    pedophiles who think they’re above the law.

    I think he’s the one who I’d buy a beer for Pat.

    Not that I wouldn’t buy a round for you to. Just him first.

    Well played Mr Wells.

    papertiger (31efee)

  48. Dear Mr. Frey

    Deputy District DA in Los Angeles? Where do you find the free time…to blog about Polanski… or IS this little recreation…. all part of the job? Big Election year coming up, right?

    Shouldn’t you be making sure justice is served through a just system? Justice for the victim and Polanski cannot be won under a corrupt justice system then and now.

    I believe, two kinds of people when it comes to crime and punishment. There are those who understand that we are a nation of laws, and that our system does not serve vengeance but justice. And those who are like something out of the Old Testament, eye for an eye righteous, lying, arrogant fumers. I like to divide these groups into educated and ignorant

    David Wells did not lie in the documentary. The interview was done years ago according to the director. He signed a release. The film premiered in 2008 worldwide. No word from Wells on his big lie until now? Me thinks Cooley is worried he will not get elected again. Clearly the LAJD has no respect for its own system but as we know corruption breeds corruption. The fact that the majority of the PRESS is IGNORING a corrupt judge in 1977 and now a corrupt DA speaks volumes. The question is how much are you paying David Wells or at least tell us what he’s getting of it or were threats involved?

    RE: Probation Transcripts: So many case facts have been spinned by your pal Marcia Clark, I cannot even begin to list them all. However the documentary: Roman Polanski: Wanted & Desired interviews MAJOR participants from the case and witnesses to Rittenband’s judicial misconduct who outline this heinous conduct in the film. How interesting that the PRESS also FAILS to mention that Rittenband asked a news reporter (as well as David Wells ) “What he should do with Polanski?” Ethics Violation…big time.

    Also, please note that David Wells provided way too many SPECIFIC details. Lying? I don’t think so…. Let’s see if his current statement will hold up under a polygraph test, shall we?

    Also, how interesting that the prosecutor Roger Gunson, says in the film ( paraphrase ) ” had he been in Polanski’s shoes, he would have fled as well.” Yes, the highly respected MORMON PROSECUTOR!!!!. The Judicial misconduct was indeed….that bad…. Oh and did I mention the 2 PRETEND hearings that Rittenband concocted? The list of misconduct and ethics violations goes on and on and on.

    How interesting that the PRESS neglects to mention… that Rittenband was removed from the case.

    The LAJD says its been trying to get Polanski for 30 years. When questioned, they immediately scramble to produce a one page press release which they post on their website with some dates and blurbs over the years…. Anybody can write a press release. Let’s see the original papers.

    Seems evident that a corrupt justice department and a biased sensationalist News Media walk hand in hand these days… After all, an election year is coming up! Is it not?

    No wonder Polanski fled. Anyone in their right mind would and should.

    The question is… how can you can you condemn his corruption when you cannot condemn your own. What type of justice is corruption, dishonesty and finally hypocrisy ? It is he who thinks they are above the law, not Mr. Polanski.

    Kitty Kat (4f600a)

  49. […] approve a handful of them. You can read the comment here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. That’s eight instances of the same comment — and I deleted at least as many instances […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Associate Producer of Polanski Documentary Spams This Blog With Multiple Anonymous Comments Attacking Me? (e4ab32)

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