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The Thin Blurred Line

A Ventura County Rape Case Shows How Difficult It Can Be to Judge the Truth When Sex Takes Place in a Hard-Partying Haze

December 01, 2002|Mary A. Fischer | Mary A. Fischer is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer.

Luster's mother, Elizabeth, was adopted by Freda Factor, the oldest daughter of Max Faktor Sr., a wig maker for the imperial family who fled Russia in 1902 and smuggled his family aboard a ship bound for America, where his name was misspelled as Factor at Ellis Island. In 1909 they settled in California, where Factor specialized in theatrical makeup for screen legends such as Joan Crawford and Lana Turner. He later expanded the company into a multimillion-dollar international cosmetics firm. Factor died in 1938, and in 1973 the family sold the company to Norton Simon Inc. for $480 million--it is now controlled by Procter & Gamble--and the proceeds have been passed down through four generations in trust funds.

Luster's father, a psychiatrist, died from emphysema-related surgery when Luster was 9, leaving his mother to raise him and his younger sister. He has two children, ages 8 and 11, by a former girlfriend who brings them for weekend visits.

Andrew Luster met Carey Doe at O'Malley's sometime after 1 a.m. on that Saturday in July 2000. By then, according to court documents, she had consumed three beers, two Long Island iced teas and a Cosmopolitan. Like many her age, Carey, a third-year UCSB student, had experimented with drugs. She had taken Ecstasy and smoked marijuana three times prior to that night, she told police. She said she sometimes got so drunk that she vomited.

Carey told police that she felt strange after dancing with Luster. She later suggested to friends that perhaps she had been given a spiked cup of water at O'Malley's, because she does not remember agreeing to leave with Luster or that she and her friend David got into Luster's green Toyota Forerunner and headed back to his house in Mussel Shoals.

According to various accounts, it was after 2 a.m. when the group arrived at Luster's house. The beach was dark except for flickering lights from an oil rig up the coast. Carey later told police that she walked onto the pier, took off her dress, handed her money and ID card to Luster, and jumped into the surf.

A few minutes later, she swam back to shore and climbed out, shivering in only her thong underwear. One of the men helped her out (accounts differ about which man) and they went back to Luster's house, where she took a shower. Luster got in with her and they had sex. Again, accounts differ. Was it consensual, as Luster maintains, or was Carey so out of it that she was in no condition to give consent? Luster took several photos of her in his living room that night and Luster's defense team claims those photos were taken sometime after she took a shower. One of those images is expected to become pivotal evidence in Luster's defense. It shows Carey fully dressed and smiling.

By the time Luster drove Carey and her friend David back to her apartment near Santa Barbara on Saturday morning, she claims Luster had raped her two more times. Before they parted, she told police, she gave him her telephone number.

"There is a strong cultural bias against women who get drunk and, say, rip off their clothes in the middle of the street," says Porrata. "It's not a pretty picture and predatory men hide behind that bias. Women who party like the boys and drink and take drugs voluntarily complicate these cases because their behavior fuzzies the issue of consent, but it still doesn't mean they give their consent."

Carey went to the police the following Monday to report that she'd been raped by Luster. A series of tests at a local hospital found no trace of drugs in her system, according to Luster's defense team. But details of her account convinced detectives that she'd been drugged with GHB, although the defense claims that none was found in searches of Luster's home and vehicle.

Without proof of toxicity "prosecutors take another road and try to find other victims to weave a tapestry of stories," says Deputy Dist. Atty. Stone. In the Spitzer twins case, the prosecution urged other victims to come forward in news articles, "and 23 women came out of the woodwork," Stone says.

Even when other alleged victims come forward, drug-aided rape cases can still be "hard sells to juries because jurors look for inconsistencies in the women's statements," says jury consultant Lara Giese. Giese worked on the John Gordon Jones case, a high-profile GHB criminal case that was tried in Long Beach and ended in an acquittal on all 30 counts of drugging and raping nine women. (In July, Jones was ordered to pay $5.3 million in civil damages to one of his accusers. One of his defense lawyers, Richard Sherman, is co-counsel on Luster's defense team.)

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