Andrew Luster, right, shown in 2003, was arrested in Mexico, returned to… (Nick Ut, Associated Press )
A judge Monday vacated the 124-year sentence received by convicted rapist Andrew Luster in 2003 and ordered an April 4 hearing to determine a new sentence.
Luster, a great-grandson of cosmetics giant Max Factor, was convicted on 86 counts of rape and drug charges after a jury viewed videotapes he made of himself engaging in sexual acts with three women rendered unconscious by GHB, a "date-rape" drug.
Although Judge Kathryne Ann Stoltz refused to grant Luster a new trial and expressed skepticism about most of the arguments made by Luster's attorneys in more than a week of hearings, she agreed that his unusually long sentence needed to be reconsidered.
The trial court did not state specific reasons, as required by law, for giving Luster maximum consecutive sentences on each count, ruled Stoltz, a retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge hired to hear the legal action in Ventura County.
However, Stoltz also said a plea offer that was being discussed before Luster's trial, which his lawyers pointed to as illustrating how excessive his eventual sentence was, "may no longer do the case justice." Prosecutors have contended there was never a firm deal, though testimony indicated that possible offers of eight to 12 or six to 16 years were in the air.
"It is doubtful that a trial judge would now accept a sentence in the range which was under discussion prior to trial," Stoltz wrote. A judge would view the crime tapes, which Stoltz called "disturbing." The victims appear lifeless, she wrote, and Luster "leers, grins and gloats for the camera." While in Mexico, he compiled what he called a "payback list," the judge noted, with names of Ventura County prosecutors, sheriff's deputies, his victims and one of his attorneys.
Luster's case drew global attention after he jumped his $1-million bail and fled to Mexico. He was later apprehended there by celebrity bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman.
Luster's current attorneys argued that the escape was instigated by a former Luster attorney who frightened him into running for his life, repeatedly telling him he'd be killed in prison. That lawyer, Richard G. Sherman, died in 2011.
In her ruling, Stoltz made clear that she wasn't buying arguments hinging on the alleged ineffectiveness of Luster's previous attorneys, saying he left for Mexico voluntarily.
Luster, 49, has so far served 10 years of his prison sentence. Stoltz said she doubted his claim that he turned down a possible plea because he was confused by conflicting advice from his attorneys.
"Luster heard what he wanted to hear," she wrote. "He fired attorneys who gave him advice he didn't like."
Luster's victims will have an opportunity to testify at his resentencing hearing.