Luster takes the stand
Max Factor heir explains why he fled during his rape trial
The son of Max Factor's adopted granddaughter wants a reduced sentence on the basis that he was led astray by his legal counsel.
Andrew Luster's new legal team, made up of Jay Leiderman and David Nick, were granted a writ of habeas corpus. That led to Luster taking the witness stand Wednesday at hearing before Judge Kathryne Stoltz.
Luster's high-profile trial made international news when he disappeared during a holiday recess in his trial in December of 2002. The trial went on without him. Jurors watched two videotapes showing showed Luster talking to the camera about doing anything he wanted. One video shows Luster inserting a joint and candle into a snoring naked woman. Because of the videotapes Luster was charged an extra count for every penetration, amounting to more than 85 counts.
In January 2003 Luster was convicted of drugging and raping a 17-year-old and two women he met at bars on State Street in Santa Barbara. If the 49-year out had taken a plea deal, he might be out of prison today, but he was sentenced in absentia to 124 years in prison.
Luster testified that one of his first lawyers and a close friend named Darryl Genis advised him to take an 8-to-12-year plea deal because they knew some of the women were going to testify.
But he went on to hire other lawyers who told him he they could win the case.
Luster testified that his father died when he was 9 and that he considered two of his attorneys to be father figures.
One of them, Richard Sherman, has since passed away.
Luster said Sherman planned to win by accusing police and prosecutors of misconduct. Luster said he was threatened with great bodily injury by deputies, including one who was the brother of a girl he dated.
When legal motions failed to go his way, Luster said he felt the court was fixed and dead set on convicting him. Luster said fleeing was Sherman's idea. He said Sherman introduced him to the mercenary who helped him escape to Mexico in return to more than $200,000.
On the day he left his Ventura County beach house, he said, he felt incredibly scared and sad to be leaving his children, and his mother behind. Within six months, Dog the Bounty Hunter found him in Puerto Vallarta.
Luster returned to the U.S. and began serving his 124-year sentence at Wasco State Prison, where he said he continued to seek Sherman's legal advice.
Luster said he used to think consent was his defense, but during his incarceration he learned that consent was invalid if a rape victim is intoxicated or unconscious.
When the hearing wraps up, it will be up to Judge Kathryne Stoltz to decide whether to reduce or set aside Luster's sentence.
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