But the negotiations fell apart.
The latest chapter of the saga -- the one that would lead to the arrest -- began last year with the HBO documentary, "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," directed by Marina Zenovich. The film looked like the ultimate boon for the fugitive director, focusing on the allegations of misconduct against Rittenband, who died in 1993, and raising questions about what happened in the meetings with Fidler.
Dalton told the filmmaker that Fidler was ready to hold a hearing and let Polanski go without more time in custody, but wanted the hearing televised -- a condition Polanski wouldn't accept. A court spokesman, Alan Parachini, called this a "complete fabrication."
This dispute would become another sideshow to overshadow the events of March 10, 1977.
Much like the probation report, the documentary sanitized the core allegations, presenting selected bits of Samantha's grand jury testimony interspersed with Polanski's description of what happened.
Samantha: "He reached over and kissed me and I was telling him, 'No, you know. . . . Keep away."
Polanski: "She wasn't unresponsive. There was no doubt about her experience and lack of inhibition."
Samantha: "I was kind of dizzy, you know, like things were kind of blurry. I can barely remember anything that happened."
The film delved into the allegations against Rittenband. Dalton and Gunson recalled private meetings in which the judge told them what to argue at the sentencing hearing, even as his decision was already made. Another prosecutor, David Wells, said he was constantly in the judge's ear about the case and planted the idea of the psychiatric study at Chino.
Polanski's attorneys jumped on Wells' statements as the key basis for a full-throttle push to have the case thrown out -- their first public move in 30 years.
They had now cleared every obstacle they could. They had the victim on their side. They had Wells. They had Gunson saying the judge acted in bad faith. They even had a transcript of the filmmaker's interview with Richard Doyle, one of current Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley's bureau directors, saying he believed Rittenband abused his authority. (Doyle also said he thought Polanski's crime was "extremely calculated. . . . I don't think he had any intention of doing a photo spread of the girl.")
They filed a motion for dismissal on Dec. 8.
Judge Peter Espinoza said in February that Polanski needed to appear in court before he would hear the evidence. He hinted the director might have a case. "There was substantial, it seems to me, misconduct that occurred during the pendency of this case," Espinoza said.
Polanski's attorneys went to the appeals court in July with a petition to order the lower court to dismiss the prosecution.
"Despite feigning offense at Mr. Polanski's absence from California, the district attorney has never sought extradition or other relief, knowing, of course, that such relief would require litigation of the misconduct in this petition," they wrote.
On Sept. 22, Cooley drafted a warrant for his arrest. Polanski, now 76, was arrested four days later while getting off the airplane in Zurich.
Four days after that, Wells told the media he made up the stories in the documentary about Rittenband. "I'd like to speak of it as an inept statement but the reality is that it was a lie."
Polanski remains in custody fighting his extradition. His attorneys said he will go bankrupt if he is held much longer. On Tuesday, Switzerland's top criminal court rejected Polanski's appeal to be released on bail.
He may soon be back in Los Angeles to answer what a nervous young girl said 32 years ago.