Best of AP — Honorable Mention


Smart source work delivers exclusive on Polanski case transcript

Movie director Roman Polanski talks with newsmen outside the courtroom where he was arraigned in Los Angeles on rape and sex perversion charges, March 30, 1977. He told reporters: ?I am innocent.? (AP Photo)


From the moment a court ordered it unsealed, Los Angeles reporter Brian Melley doggedly tracked the progress of a long-sought transcript in Roman Polanski’s 1977 underage sex abuse case. Melley found the court reporter, putting in the first order for the 400 pages of testimony by a former prosecutor who handled the case. (The testimony had been taken more than a decade earlier and been sought by Polanski’s attorneys and foreign governments to help assess whether the director’s case had been mishandled by a judge.) Court transcripts in Los Angeles can be difficult to obtain, but Melley drew on experience to quickly locate the reporter and arrange for the transcript to be delivered electronically.

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Director Roman Polanski appears at an international film festival in Krakow, Poland, May 2, 2018. A court transcript shows a U.S. judge planned to renege on a plea deal and imprison Polanski for having sex with teen in 1977. The previously sealed transcript obtained by the AP of testimony by retired Deputy District Attorney Roger Gunson supports Polanski’s claim that he fled on the eve of sentencing in 1978 because he didn’t think he was getting a fair deal. – AP Photo

Melley’s smart work put AP at the front of the line to receive the transcript and he stayed in close contact with the court reporter through Friday evening. At 11 p.m. on Sunday night, the transcript arrived and Melley — knowing the story would be important to European audiences — went through it to glean key details and produced an authoritative story that no one could match for more than five hours. In his previously sealed testimony, the former prosecutor said that the judge in the case was reneging on a promise not to jail Polanski, prompting the director to flee the country.

After wrapping up the story at 3 a.m.,Melley got a few hours rest before setting out to interview Polanski’s attorney,who still hadn’t received his copy of the transcript. Prosecutors similarly did not obtain the document until later Monday,giving AP a lengthy exclusive on a high profile, competitive celebrity court case that has implications on both sides of the Atlantic.

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