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Ventura County

Jury Told Innocent 'Don't Run'

Prosecutor reminds the panel of Andrew Luster's fugitive status. Defense is expected to make its final arguments in the date-rape trial today.

January 16, 2003|Tracy Wilson | Times Staff Writer

Serial rape suspect Andrew Luster jumped his $1-million bail and fled in the middle of trial because he knows he is guilty and wanted to escape prosecution, a Ventura County prosecutor argued Wednesday.

"Innocent people don't run," Deputy Dist. Atty. Tony Wold told jurors. "Mr. Luster jumped bail and fled from this trial because he knows he is guilty."

Authorities said Wednesday they have found Luster's German shepherd, with which he fled, at the home of Luster's mother in Sonoma. Investigators interviewed his mother but were not able to develop any leads to his whereabouts, sheriff's spokesman Eric Nishimoto said.

Luster, a 39-year-old investor and great-grandson to cosmetics magnate Max Factor, failed to return to court last week after a recess in his high-profile trial. He is charged with 87 counts, including rape of unconscious victims, drug possession and poisoning, and faces life in prison if convicted.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday February 19, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 74 words Type of Material: Correction
Andrew Luster -- Several stories, photo captions and headlines that have appeared in Section A and the California section about convicted rapist Andrew Luster incorrectly identified him as an heir to cosmetics magnate Max Factor. Luster, the great-grandson of Factor, lives off investments that include a family trust, according to court records. But he is not a direct heir to the Max Factor fortune, according to his family.

Prosecutors contend Luster did not use a gun or a knife on his victims, but a potent date-rape drug that rendered them unconscious and erased any memory of sexual assaults captured on videotape at his seaside Mussel Shoals home.

Attorney Roger Diamond, who is expected to argue the defense case today, has previously stated the purported rape victims are party girls who engaged in consensual sex and are now lying because they are embarrassed.

Wold called that argument "ludicrous" and spent four hours Wednesday summarizing the prosecution case to the five men and seven women on the jury.

Luster was arrested in July 2000 after a UC Santa Barbara student, identified as Carey Doe, told police Luster had drugged and raped her after they met at a bar. Her report led to a search of Luster's home, where detectives seized homemade movies that depict sex acts with two seemingly comatose women in 1996 and 1997.

Wold said the evidence presented during the three-week trial shows Luster drugged and raped the women to satisfy his "sick fantasies," and kept incriminating videotapes that he said offer conclusive evidence of guilt.

On one of the tapes, Luster is seen sitting on a bed next to a 17-year-old girl, who appears to be asleep. He stares directly into the camera and states: "Some people dream about Christmas, Thanksgiving. I dream about this. A strawberry blond, beautiful girl passed out on my bed and basically there for me to do with whatever I chose." Luster goes on to engage in various sex acts with the young woman, identified as Shawna Doe, who can be heard snoring.

Wold told jurors the critical question they must answer is whether Shawna Doe and a second alleged victim, identified as Tonja Doe, are unconscious during the sex acts on the videotapes. If jurors conclude they are comatose, Wold said, they must find Luster guilty because "you cannot legally have sex with a woman who is unconscious."

Neither woman recalled the sexual encounters depicted on the videotapes, which were shown to jurors during the trial. Wold argued Luster had given them "rape cocktails" laced with the drug GHB, or gamma hydroxybutyrate, to render them unconscious for sex.

The prosecutor noted one of the videotapes was labeled "Shawna GHBing."

"Make no doubt as to what those videotapes show," the prosecutor argued. "They show Andrew Luster is a serial rapist."

Diamond has suggested during the trial that Luster was an aspiring porn producer and the two women actresses who pretended to be asleep while filming fetish sex films with Luster.

Wold argued, however, there is no evidence to support that theory -- no contracts with actors, no "1-800-GET-RAPED ads" in pornographic magazines, and no testimony of Luster's fledgling business ventures. He added that when Luster was arrested on suspicion of rape, he told a detective he was a real estate investor -- not a porn producer.

"Don't you think he would have mentioned somewhere along the way that he produced unconscious rape fantasy tapes?" Wold asked in his summation. "He doesn't mention it because it is not true. It is a desperate defense."

As for the alleged rape of Carey Doe, the university student, Wold said Luster saw her in a Santa Barbara bar "like a lion on the Serengeti seeing a tall gazelle" and handed her a GHB-laced drink so he could lure her back to his house for sex.

The student's testimony of memory loss, blackouts and foggy recollections of Luster having sexual intercourse with her three times is consistent with GHB poisoning, which prevented her from resisting Luster, Wold said.

He added that if Carey Doe was an embarrassed party girl, as the defense maintains, she would never have reported the alleged assault to police.

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