Roman Polanski's Star Defense Witness: 'I Lied'


Forget everything you've heard about Roman Polanski's defense strategy -- the corrupt judge, the documentary expose, the motion to dismiss the 30-year old case, the international celebrity outcry over his arrest and detention in Switzerland, Humbert Humbert's plea for leniency, and everything else working to clear a path for the filmmaker to finally move on to his post-fugitive golden years. A wild new development calls for Plan B, or a white flag, or Rolaids, or whatever it is you reach for when your most important witness admits says he made his whole story up.

The Daily Beast reported earlier today that David Wells -- the charismatic prosecutor who claimed to have privately advised Judge Laurence Rittenband in Polanski's case, thus setting up the claim of judicial misconduct alleged in Marina Zenovich's documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired -- lied to Zenovich in his interviews for the film. Talking now with former O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark, Wells said he did ask a baliff to give Rittenband a photo of Polanski partying it up at Oktoberfest ahead of his sentencing, but that it was the infuriated judge's own idea to scrap the deal and sentence the flamboyant Polanski to prison instead.

But who really cares what Wells says at this point -- with the obvious exception of why he did it, for that's even worth:

"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. [...]

"I'm going to have to eat crow," he told me. "I know that. And I will. I know how it sounds, that I'm willing to lie about talking to Judge Rittenband, but I didn't do anything unethical. But it's the truth."

"Look, after 30 years, I never thought they'd get the guy back here," Wells continued. "I figured no one cared anymore, and no one here would ever see the film anyway. What can I say? I don't have a better reason than that. It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Well, at least he's honest. Ahem.

So what's next? Good question. Conspiracy theorists (read: the Polanski defense team) will hasten to say Wells was pressured to fall on his sword by his former colleagues at the prosecutor's office; he already looked like an unethical buffoon in the film, so why not look like a buffoon and bring Polanski to justice? Of course we'll never know what really happened because with one evidentiary flip-flop, Wells has made himself virtually irrelevant to the whole case.

Harvey Weinstein, meanwhile, might want to revise his film-community call to arms to deemphasize judicial misconduct and sell the good old "tragic figure" angle a little harder. Hilariously, Harvey actually owns the international rights to Zenovich's documentary; not only can he no longer pimp the film in his appeals on Polanski's behalf, he'll now likely attempt to figure out what legal recourse he has against Zenovich's lying subject and maybe even the producers who sold him the doc out of Sundance '08. Debra Tate might book a few more talk-show appearances to remind more people that her former brother-in-law didn't rape 13-year-old Samantha Gailey -- it was "consensual," remember? Hearts and minds, folks!

Either way, someone book Polanski a room at the L.A. County Jail. He's coming.

· Polanski's Lost Alibi [Daily Beast]