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2003 REGION: LUSTER CAPTURE BOUNTY HUNTER SNAGGED FUGITIVE HEIR.

Byline: Andrea Cavanaugh Staff Writerd

Max Factor heir Andrew Luster's conviction on rape charges while on the lam and his capture in Mexico by a colorful bounty hunter focused international media attention on Ventura County.

Luster, 40, the great-grandson of cosmetics mogul Max Factor, was convicted in absentia Jan. 21 of 86 counts of drugging three women with the date-rape drug GHB inside his Mussel Shoals home. Luster videotaped two of the rapes.

Luster fled on Jan. 3 after Superior Court Judge Ken Riley allowed him relief from house arrest for 12 hours each day during the trial's Christmas break.

While still a fugitive, Luster was sentenced in February to 124 years in prison.

He is serving his sentence at Salinas Valley Prison. The California Supreme Court recently denied his bid for an appeal.

His capture in June by bounty hunter Duane ``Dog'' Chapman, who tackled him outside a taco stand in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, drew camera crews from around the world.

``It certainly took us by surprise how much media attention this generated,'' Ventura County sheriff's spokesman Eric Nishimoto said. ``We certainly didn't consider him a celebrity.''

Before his capture, Luster apparently drifted around Mexico, surfing and partying in bars and strip clubs.

Two of his victims later won multimillion-dollar civil judgments against him, and a lawsuit by the third woman is pending.

Attorney Roger Jon Diamond, who represented Luster at trial, said the sentence was far harsher than deserved.

Diamond noted that convicted murderers often receive lesser sentences.

``I just think that the punishment was clearly excessive,'' he said. ``Basically a life sentence is too long.

``He wasn't present for the sentencing because he was a fugitive. I think the judge was influenced by that.''

Prosecutor Maeve Fox said the sentence suited the crime perfectly.

``He has a complete disregard for the law, and he only cares about himself,'' she said.

``He's a serial rapist and he is where he belongs. I'm very satisfied with the way the process worked.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 31, 2003
Words:332
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