Roman Polanski’s bid to end his three-decade-long child sex case without returning to Los Angeles suffered a major setback this week when a state appellate court denied his latest request to be sentenced while he remains under house arrest in Switzerland.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal at one time appeared sympathetic to the filmmaker’s arguments, suggesting last year that the controversy could be resolved if Polanski asked to be sentenced in absentia.

But the same court on Thursday rejected arguments by Polanski’s lawyers that a judge should sentence the acclaimed director to time served for having sex with a 13-year-old girl before his extradition proceeding is resolved. The court did not hold a hearing or issue a written opinion on the request.

“The appellate court shut him down pretty strongly,” said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson. “The clear message is that if anything is going to happen in this case, it’s going to be with him coming back to the United States.”

Unless Polanski’s attorneys can persuade the California Supreme Court to intervene, the focus of the long-running legal saga will shift back to Switzerland, where authorities must decide whether to extradite Polanski.

The Swiss Justice Ministry had said authorities would delay a decision until California courts ruled on whether Polanski could be sentenced without returning to the U.S. Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza ruled earlier this year that he would not sentence the director as long as he remained a fugitive.

Polanski has argued that his 1977 sex crimes case was tainted by judicial and prosecutorial misconduct.

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