Ventura County prosecutors will ask a judge next month to impose the equivalent of a life prison term on convicted rapist Andrew Luster, despite defense arguments that he cannot be sentenced while a fugitive.
A day after jurors found Luster guilty of drugging and raping three women, prosecutors hit the law books Wednesday to bolster their position that the fugitive should not be allowed to escape punishment.
"He is not entitled to let this case conclude at his convenience," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Tony Wold, one of two prosecutors on the high-profile sex-assault case.
"He can't run and then say, 'Don't sentence me because I could lose my right to appeal,' " Wold said in response to a defense argument that Luster's appellate rights could be jeopardized. "You're not allowed to benefit from your own wrong."
Luster, 39, a self-employed investor and great-grandson of cosmetics magnate Max Factor, jumped his $1-million bail earlier this month and fled during a two-week recess in his trial.
Ventura County Superior Court Judge Ken Riley declared Luster a fugitive, issued a warrant for his arrest and ordered the trial to continue without him.
On Tuesday, jurors found Luster guilty on 86 criminal counts. They included 20 counts of rape by use of drugs, 17 counts of rape of unconscious victims, two counts of poisoning and four counts of drug possession.
Luster's vanishing act drew national attention to the lurid case, which began 2 1/2 years ago when a 21-year-old UC Santa Barbara student reported that Luster had raped her at his two-bedroom beach house after they met at a downtown Santa Barbara bar.
During a search of Luster's house, sheriff's detectives seized homemade movies that depicted Luster raping two unconscious women. The tapes were date-stamped October 1996 and December 1997.
Criminal charges were filed on behalf of those women after they identified themselves on the tapes. Rape charges were also filed on behalf of the UC Santa Barbara student.
Defense attorney Roger Diamond maintains Luster cannot be sentenced while a fugitive. Diamond intends to ask the judge to delay sentencing until his client turns up.
"I fully expect him to return shortly," Diamond said. "I don't believe that he will stay free for too much longer. I'm sure because of the media coverage that the whole world knows about this case."
Prosecutors are concerned if Luster is not sentenced within 20 days they could lose their right to punish him. And Diamond is concerned that if Luster is sentenced and doesn't reappear within 60 days of the sentencing hearing, his right to appeal the conviction could be lost.