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Luster Victim Asks for Millions

The attorney for the second woman to sue the convicted rapist calls his conduct 'beyond outrageous.' The defense disputes financial losses.

September 10, 2003|Tracy Wilson | Times Staff Writer

An attorney representing a victim of convicted rapist Andrew Luster asked a judge Tuesday to award his client more than $20 million in damages, describing Luster as a spoiled playboy whose conduct was loathsome.

Los Angeles attorney William Daniels told Ventura County Superior Court Judge Barbara Lane that evidence presented during a three-day civil trial clearly showed that Luster raped and injured his client and should therefore be required to pay substantial damages.

But an attorney for Luster sought to discredit the victim and argued that Daniels failed to prove his case.

Earlier this year, Luster, 39, the great-grandson of cosmetics legend Max Factor, was found guilty of raping three women after inviting them to his home and knocking them out with a drug slipped into their cocktails. He is serving a 124-year prison sentence and awaiting a California Supreme Court decision on whether he can appeal. A court recently ruled that Luster had no appeal rights because he fled his trial and was hiding out in a foreign country before being recaptured in June.

Meanwhile, all three rape victims have sued Luster on grounds that include intentional infliction of emotional distress, rape, assault, negligence and fraud. A judge awarded one victim $19 million last month, and a lawsuit filed by the third is expected to go to trial this fall.

Last week, testimony began in the case brought by a victim identified as Tonja Doe, 30, a former girlfriend of the defendant who said she was unaware she had been raped until detectives investigating an unrelated assault showed her a videotape of the incident. Authorities found the tape during a July 2000 search of Luster's Mussel Shoals beach home, where the woman briefly lived with Luster.

The tape was admitted as evidence during the civil and criminal trials. It shows Luster engaging in sexual intercourse with Doe as she lies unconscious on his bed, and at one point shows him placing a lighted marijuana cigarette on her genitals.

Lane described the acts as "a very perverted display" after viewing the 30-minute recording.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Daniels said words could not describe the conduct documented on the tape and called it the best evidence of Luster's fraud and assault on his client.

"The conduct here is beyond outrageous," Daniels said, describing Luster as a privileged rich boy who never held a job and who used Doe as a plaything. "What we've seen with Mr. Luster was a man who became a monster because of his wealth."

Daniels estimated Luster's financial worth at $20 million and asked Lane to award at least that amount. He suggested that a more appropriate sum would be $43.5 million, or half of the $87 million that Luster represented to Doe was his worth at the time they were dating in 1996, according to her testimony.

Defense attorney Harold Greenberg of Los Angeles said Daniels failed to prove that Doe suffered financial losses. He asked Lane not to consider Luster's criminal conviction as evidence in the civil case, arguing that the matter had not been finalized. And he argued that Doe voluntarily took the drug that knocked her out after meeting Luster at a bar.

"There has been no showing that she has suffered any loss," he said.

Lane is expected to rule in the next two weeks.

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