Convicted rapist Andrew Luster's 124-year sentence vacated
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 needs to be reconsidered.
The trial court did not state 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However, Stoltz also said an 8-to-12-year plea offer that was being discussed before Luster's trial is no longer valid. Prosecutors in the case have contended it was never a firm deal in the first place.
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 attorney argued that the flight to Mexico was choreographed for a fee by one of Luster's former attorneys. They said the now-deceased attorney deliberately frightened Luster into running for his life, repeatedly telling him he'd die in prison at the hands either of other inmates or of corrupt officers.
Luster "had a somewhat pugnacious attitude right from the outset," the judge wrote, citing his statement to police about one of his victims: "If the D.A. files charges, it's gonna go to a jury and she's gonna look like a fool...Cause I'm gonna get a top notch lawyer and she'll be cross-examined and ripped to pieces, guaranteed, you know."
Luster's victims will have an opportunity to testify at his resentencing hearing.
-- Steve Chawkins
Photo: Andrew Luster at LAX after his return from Mexico in 2003. Credit: Gina Ferrazi / Los Angeles Times.