On Trial/On the Run
The official courtroom face-off between Luster and his accusers finally was set to begin in the fall of 2002.
The stringent terms of Luster's house arrest had been a sore point for nearly two years, and as the trial approached the defense team petitioned Ventura County Superior Court Judge Ken Riley to allow more freedom of movement to allow Luster to prepare his defense.
Prosecutors argued vehemently against any relaxation of the terms. They reiterated that Luster's wealth made him liable to flee. But Judge Riley granted Luster full freedom of movement from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. Luster's electronic ankle monitor would alert authorities only if he was not physically present in his home outside those hours.
If he had a mind to run, he could get in his car at 8:01 a.m. and drive for a full half-day before anyone would know he was missing.
The trial began Dec. 16, and a jury of seven women and five men viewed the sex tapes and heard from each of the three alleged victims during the first week of testimony. Just before Christmas, Judge Riley declared a two-week holiday recess.
But when the trial resumed in January, the marquee figure was absent from the courtroom. Authorities revealed that Andrew Luster had skipped bail and disappeared on Jan. 3.
Judge Riley admitted he screwed up. He had given Luster a half-day lead on authorities when he decided to flee.
"At the time I thought it was a legitimate request," Riley later said. "As it turns out, I made a mistake."
The trial went on without him.