- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

VENTURA, Calif., Jan. 16 (UPI) — Playboy cosmetics heir Andrew Luster remained a fugitive for an 11th day Thursday as a jury began deliberations on 87 counts involving his alleged drugging and raping of women at his Southern California beach house.

Luster, 39, had pleaded innocent to the charges that could fetch him a life sentence, but he disappeared in the midst of the trial while free on bail and has not been seen since.

It is hard to put a time frame on finding a fugitive," Ventura County Sheriff's spokesman Eric Nishimoto told television station KABC as the final closing arguments were delivered by Luster's attorney. "A lot of them we find right away, but sometimes it does take years."

Luster, the great-grandson of cosmetics tycoon Max Factor, vanished with his pet dog and some warm clothing. The dog was found this week at Luster's mother's home in Sonoma County, which could indicate Luster boarded a plane unencumbered by the animal.

Luster allegedly videotaped himself having sex with women who appeared to be unconscious. The charges revolved around three women who were allegedly knocked out with a dose of gammahydroxybutyrate, also known as GHB or the "date rape drug."

"Those videotapes don't lie," Deputy District Attorney Tony Wold said in his closing argument on Wednesday. "They conclusively establish beyond all doubt the defendant's guilt. They show the very worst of human behavior. They show that Andrew Luster is a serial rapist."

In his closing arguments Thursday, defense attorney Roger diamond repeated his contention that Luster was an aspiring pornography producer and that the alleged victims had been willing participants in both the ingestion of the GHB and the sex acts that took place afterward at his home on the Pacific coast.

"The evidence is that Andrew Luster always asked if the women wanted to use GHB because they would say yes," Diamond contended. "What's the point of him sneaking it to them when they readily accepted it?"

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