Missing: Common Sense

He's the rich great-grandson of cosmetic king Max Factor, is on trial on 87 criminal counts including sexual battery and poisoning, put up most of the $1-million bail himself, lives alone at the beach, made videotapes of sexual intercourse with allegedly drugged women and at 39 years of age faces spending the rest of his life in prison, if convicted. Gee, why would anyone ever think this scion might flee? Where is Andrew Luster? Not in his home, as required by conditions of his house arrest. Not in touch with his parole officers every 12 hours, as required. Nor was he in Ventura County Superior Court on Tuesday for resumption of his trial. So he was declared a fugitive. Let's also declare someone else a dummy for not seeing the high potential for flight of someone with Luster's resources, incentives and apparent disregard of responsibility to self and others.

It wasn't the prosecutors' fault. From the start they maintained that Luster was a major flight risk with deep pockets. They sought and initially received a $10-million bail. But an appellate court reduced that by 90%, saying it was way more than standard for sexual assault cases. So? So is the wealth of the accused. Facing the possibility of a very long time in prison has a way of focusing one's attention -- and fears. That's the point.

At first, Luster's attorney suggested his client might have been in a car crash. That sounds like soap-opera amnesia but could explain a few hours' disappearance. Luster has been gone for almost a week now. Not that many people pack up their clothes and dog to take to an upcoming automobile accident.

Sensibly, California law allows the trial to proceed. So should the diligent search for the missing defendant and an even more conscientious search within a few legal souls for some missing common sense when it comes to evaluating the flight risks of rich people accused of very serious crimes. Too bad the alleged victims were unable to run away as easily.

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