Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Andrew Luster

Appeals Moot

Andrew Luster in custody
Andrew Luster in custody

He may not have known it at the time, but his decision to take flight from justice would have vast legal ramifications.

The Luster case might have been an appellant lawyer's dream, with three complicated victims, questions about the police seizure of the sex video, conflicts with Judge Riley over admissibility of evidence and concerns over whether police and prosecutors had primed or prompted Tonja and Shauna to help them shape their case.

But under California law, Luster forfeited all rights to appeal when he skipped out on his bail.

Appeals court Judge Kenneth Yegan wrote, "An appellate court may employ dismissal as a sanction when a defendant's flight operates as an affront to the dignity of the court's proceedings. It is often said that a fugitive 'flouts' the authority of the court by escaping, and that dismissal is an appropriate sanction for this act of disrespect...Had petitioner voluntarily reappeared, he would have a much stronger argument for reinstatement of the appeal."

Defense attorney Roger Diamond was deflated.

"The Court of Appeal was obviously upset with the fact that Luster took advantage of the bail reduction that it made," he said. "The court might have taken it personally."

Luster has tried to claim that he was coerced into fleeing by another of his defense attorneys, Richard Sherman. Luster filed a $6 million lawsuit against Sherman in 2004, alleging he was part of a conspiracy to defraud him of his house, antiques and money.

The complaint alleges, "During several meetings at Sherman's office and in court, Sherman...told Luster to flee to Mexico or otherwise he would end up a 'dead man' as a result of the criminal trial."

"The charges are absurd," Sherman told reporters. He said Luster was angling to get his right to appeal reinstated by trying to prove that someone else counseled him to run.

The strategy is no surprise.

Andrew Luster
Andrew Luster

Drew Luster continues to blame everyone but himself for the wreck that his life has become.

Victims Tonja and Shauna each won civil lawsuits against Luster, who was ordered to pay a total of $39 million. The women's attorneys have been busy ever since trying to untangle the Luster/Factor family investments.

Separately, a judge ordered $430,000 of Luster's bail money paid to the three victims to compensate for lost wages, attorneys' fees, counseling and medical expenses. Elizabeth Luster, meanwhile, has filed her own lawsuit seeking recovery of Drew's bail money. The suit alleges that her attorney's ineptitude cost her the $1 million. The attorney, Joan Lavine, said she was "amazed and shocked" by the suit.

Luster has sold his Mussel Shoals pad and declared bankruptcy. Lawsuits from the Luster affair likely will slog through California courts for years to come.

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