No More Delays for Rape Suspect
For months, lawyers for date-rape suspect Andrew Luster have accused Ventura County prosecutors of hiding evidence that could exonerate their wealthy client, and demanded more time to build their case before trial.
But time has run out.
Ventura County Superior Court Judge Ken Riley this week issued a blunt ruling, denying a defense request to postpone the trial and warning lawyers they will be held in contempt if they fail to show up for jury selection on Dec. 3.
The judge rejected half a dozen defense motions, including one to suspend the proceedings to give defense lawyers time to fight his rulings before an appellate court.
“The defense has had well over one year to have the motions heard and seek appellate relief in the event the motions were denied,” Riley wrote in a five-page ruling.
Luster, the 38-year-old great-grandson of cosmetics magnate Max Factor, is accused of raping three women after rendering them unconscious with the so-called date-rape drug gamma hydroxybutyrate, or GHB.
Luster was arrested in July 2000 after one of the women reported being drugged at a Santa Barbara bar and raped at his Mussel Shoals beach house.
During a search of the home, detectives found videotapes that allegedly depict Luster engaging in sex acts with two other unconscious women.
Defense lawyers contend Luster has been framed by the Ventura County sheriff and district attorney. They suggest the tapes have been altered and the witnesses coached to lie.
They have told Riley that delays in the case can be attributed to prosecutors refusing to turn over tapes, photographs and other evidence that could support those allegations.
During a hearing last week, Los Angeles attorney Richard G. Sherman said the defense still is missing items and cannot go forward until they are provided.
Sherman also maintained that some tapes that have been provided appear to have been “substantially altered,” and requested at least two more months to investigate.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Anthony Wold denied the allegations and accused the defense of stalling.
“It should be absolutely clear that this defendant does not want to go to trial,” Wold said.
“I know he wants to force us to trial,” Sherman responded. “But I want a chance to defend the case.... Mr. Luster is an innocent man who has been framed.”
Sherman and co-counsel Roger Jon Diamond asked Riley to hold a hearing so they could present evidence to show Wold has lied and should be held in contempt of court.
In his ruling this week, Riley refused to grant the hearing. “This defense motion has no basis in fact,” he wrote. “The allegations against Mr. Wold are without merit.”