French court acquits director of defamation

French court acquits director of defamation

A Paris court has acquitted director Roman Polanski of defaming a British actor who accused him of raping her when she was a teenager.

In 2019, he told Paris Match magazine that Charlotte Lewis had lied about being sexually assaulted by him four decades ago.

Ms Lewis, 56, brought the case against the 90-year-old filmmaker.

She told the court in March that she had become the victim of a “smear campaign” that “nearly destroyed” her.

Ms Lewis told the BBC she will appeal the decision.

The court’s verdict relates to the charge of defamation and not to Ms Lewis’s accusation of rape against Mr Polanski.

The judges found that his response was a “value judgement about the fickle character of the plaintiff”.

They pointed to a “significant gap between the admiration and gratitude towards the director, which she publicly expressed until 2010, and the denunciation of the violent nature of their relationship at the moment she decided to join in the condemnation against him”.

None of his words contested by the actor were of a “nature to impugn the honour and respect of the plaintiff”, the judges said.

Mr Polanski fled the United States in 1978 after admitting having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Several other women have since come forward with claims that Mr Polanski abused them. He denies all claims against him.

In 2010, Ms Lewis accused the director of assaulting her in “the worst possible way” when she was 16 in 1983 in Paris, after she had travelled there for a casting. She later appeared in his 1986 film Pirates.

But in an interview with the Paris Match magazine, the France-born filmmaker claimed it was a “heinous lie”. He did not attend the trial.

Paris Match reported that during the interview he allegedly read from a 1999 article in the now-defunct British tabloid newspaper News of the World, which quoted Ms Lewis as saying: “I was fascinated by him, and I wanted to be his lover.”

Ms Lewis has said the quotes attributed to her in that interview were not accurate.

She filed a complaint for defamation, and the film director was automatically charged under French law.

Mr Polanski, known for films including Chinatown, The Pianist, and Rosemary’s Baby, has faced controversy for decades since fleeing the United States.

He has French and Polish citizenship, and has evaded various extradition attempts by US authorities.

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