Part 2: Luster On The Run

A Defendant Disappears During Trial

Years after their breakup, Tonja would learn that Andrew Luster was under arrest. She went to the Ventura County Sheriff's office, thinking she might be of some help to the investigation.

That's when she learned what really happened on the first night she met Andrew Luster. "I walked in there, and the sheriff took one look at me, and pointed at me and said, 'I have videotapes of you that we confiscated from his home.'"

And those tapes, prosecutors say, show that Tonja was raped by Luster while she was passed out on his bed.

Luster spent five months in jail before a judge lowered his bail from $10 million to $1 million. After that, he was on an electronic monitoring device, confined to his house.

He said he was being persecuted because of his family name. "I'm the trophy that the police want on their wall," he says.

But prosecutors Maeve Fox and Anthony Wold say Luster would be prosecuted no matter who he is -- and they say they've never seen such damning evidence.

"He gives his confession on tape. I mean he basically satisfies every element of the penal code violations that we charged him with," says Wold. "He talks about intent, he describes what he's going to do. Then he does it."

But Luster disagrees: "Everything that's transpired between me and my girlfriends has always been consensual."

How can it be consensual if they're not even conscious?

"Like I was saying: everything I've ever done with my girlfriends has always been consensual," says Luster.

But the judge wouldn't let the Luster's defense team make the argument that the sex was consensual. He cited recent higher court rulings in California that state a woman has the right to change her mind at anytime. And because Luster's accusers were unconscious at the time of the alleged assaults, the judge ruled they could not exercise their right to say no.

"It is a big problem," says Luster's lead defense attorney, Roger Diamond. Diamond planned an unusual defense: The women in the videotapes were just pretending to be unconscious, to help Luster make porno films.

"It's what I would expect when you have absolutely no other defense whatsoever," says Wold. "If you are dumb enough to videotape yourself raping two comatose females that doesn't leave you a lot of room for a defense at trial."

Both Tonja and Shawna say emphatically that they were not acting.

On Tonja's tape, the assault is most brutal. "He was doing things to me that were so painful, that would normally have been so painful in a conscious state that there is absolutely no way, I don't care who you are, what kind of pain tolerance you have you can just lie there and continue snoring and not even flinch," says Tonja. "There was no acting involved."

Two and a half years after Luster was arrested, the case went to trial. Tonja was the first accuser to take the stand. Her testimony – along with the videotape evidence – was a powerful combination for the prosecution.


As the trial continued, Luster seemed to realize what the prosecution believed all along.

Luster was asked if he had prepared himself for jail: "I don't know if anybody can prepare themselves for dying. And that's basically what it would be because it's a death sentence."

Halfway through his rape trial, Luster fled. He had jumped bail, disappeared and was declared a fugitive from justice.

Prosecutors weren't surprised. "It's an ankle bracelet. It's not a chain. It does not physically prevent him from leaving his home, hopping in a car and taking off," says Wold.

Authorities eventually found his abandoned car on a residential street. A Max Factor family album was inside.

While the hunt for Luster continued, so did his trial, over the objections of his defense attorney. "Makes the case much more difficult to present," says Diamond.

In his absence, the jury saw the incriminating tape of Shawna, passed out and snoring. Then the jury heard from Carrie. There was no videotape in her case, and Diamond tried to convince the jury she was conscious and willing.

"When I cross examined her, I got her to admit that she never said no, and never resisted," says Diamond.

Almost three weeks after Luster disappeared, the jury passed judgment: guilty on 86 of the 87 counts against him.

But it didn't feel like justice to his victims.

"He can't just walk away and leave everybody that he's hurt just here with nothing, just to deal with our pain just to try to pick up the pieces and move on with our lives the best way we know how," says Tonja.

After more than five months as a fugitive, Andrew Luster's luck ran out.

He was arrested at a resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and dragged from his vehicle by bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman, who'd been on his trail for months.

Chapman had a TV crew in tow, hoping he'd get famous if he got his man.

"He did wrong," says Chapman. "He needs to come in."

The bounty hunter got his big break from an American tourist who recognized Luster in a photo of him enjoying himself at a party.

But right after Chapman and his group snared their prey, police stopped them enroute to the airport. The police arrest Luster and Chapman's team too since bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico.

Prosecutors Maeve Fox and Anthony Wold were delighted at the news of Luster's capture.

"I'd like to thank Dog for putting the effort out there to get him," says Fox. "This is a good day. I couldn't be happier for law enforcement, for everybody who put in very long hard hours getting him tried, getting him convicted ... and located."

Tonight, Luster is back in custody, leaving a hotspot in Mexico for a cold American jail cell -- facing a sentence of up to 124 years.

"I feel very good that Luster will spend the rest of his life in a prison cell," says Fox.

"Luster is a stone cold predator," adds Wold. "The only place for him is a jail cell. Every moment he was out of custody, females were at risk ... There will be three victims that will be sleeping a lot easier tonight."

"I'm going to have to pay for this the rest of my life," says Tonja. "He should have to pay for it for the rest of his life, too."

July 3, 2003
An appellate court upheld a ruling that Luster has no right to appeal his guilty verdicts because he jumped bail and fled to Mexico during a break in his trial.

Part I: Andrew Luster - Caught


  • David Kohn

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