WaxWord

Anand Jon Case

November 13, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: ANAND JON CONVICTED - LIFE IN PRISON

Anand-jon-guilty Anand Jon, the 34-year-old fashion designer accused of raping nine models, has been convicted of 16 of the 23 counts of rape and sexual assault against him in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

A jury deliberated for about five days before finding Jon guilty of 14 felony and two misdemeanor counts against seven women. The jury found Alexander not guilty of four counts of sexual assault, and was deadlocked on three counts, including one count of rape.

Judge David Wesley declared a mistrial on those three counts.

Because this case involves special circumstances of including multiple victims, the penalty is a mandatory life sentence. Jon will be eligible for parole in 67 years. Jon’s attorney Leonard Levine said he would appeal the verdict.

In a trial that lasted the better part of two months, a parade of former models emerged to accuse the Indian-born designer of luring them to his apartments in New York and Los Angeles, and raping them, sometimes within minutes of their arrival. Some of the models were young teenagers at the time.

But the case was complicated because with one exception, none of the models complained to police at the time. Many of them stayed with Jon after the assault or followed him to other cities.

Moreover, there was no physical evidence of sexual assault presented at trial.

While Jon maintained his innocence throughout, he never took the stand to defend himself, believing that the prosecution had not proved its case.

As the jury foreman read the verdict, Jon looked down without emotion, but his mother Shashi Abraham and sister Sanjana Jon began to shake uncontrollably.

The jury declined to speak to the press, and thus would shed no light on their deliberations.

Despite inconsistencies in some of the victims’ stories, the jury appeared to agree that Jon’s behavior amounted to rape and sexual assault. They convicted him of rape, lewd acts; sexual penetration by a foreign object; using a minor for sex; possessing child pornography; attempted oral copulation; sexual battery and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The jury threw out all four accusations of Britney O., including one of rape. Her testimony described outrageous behavior by Jon, including forcing her to give him oral sex while two friends sat on an adjacent couch.

And the jury deadlocked on three counts, 11-1, according to a court official, involving the accusations of a victim called Candace. The judge declared a mistrial on those counts. The deadlock was due to a lone holdout on those counts, juror 12, a man who appeared to be in his 40s, said one trial observer.

Other witnesses gave testimony that was uneven, or could not fully explain why they had never complained to police before last year. But jurors were clearly outraged by images of underaged (though not pre-pubescent) pornography on Jon’s computer, and a log he kept of every sexual encounter in which he praised his victims for their performance with comments like “swallows very well.”

Jon faces still more charges in New York and Texas. A spokeswoman for the district attorney said Jon is likely to be extradited to New York first.

“The victims who came forward were courageous,” said spokeswoman Jane Robison. “The jury sent a message that our communities will not tolerate serial rapists and child molesters like Anand Jon.”

Jon will be sentenced on January 13.

[Read more posts on the Anand Jon case]

November 02, 2008

Anand Jon Has Rested

6a00d8341f7e1f53ef010535cdbcca970b-800wi In the end, Anand Jon, the former fashion designer,  did not testify on his own behalf at  trial for the rape of nine models, despite all his protestations that he wanted to do so. His mother, Shashi, did not testify as expected. His sister, Sanjana, did not testify as expected. His brother-in-law, friends like Marla Maples, acquaintances – no one who knew Anand Jon and his life as a sexually obsessed climber with a taste for young fashion flesh, testified for him. Instead, the defense called a Santa Barbara district attorney, some cops and one very potent witness: Alicia Hanon,  the supervisor at a Radio Shack in San Luis Obispo.
 
Hanon testified that she felt compelled to come forward because she overheard one of her employees, Britney O., talking on the phone about the trial. Britney O. told friends that she was hoping to get her father’s house out of foreclosure in the wake of Jon’s trial, and was heard to say: “We have to get our stories straight.” As mentioned earlier, Britney O. wasn’t terribly credible before Hanon testified.
 
The defense is apparently convinced that the prosecution hasn’t made its case. But some pretty heinous behavior has been alleged from the stand in this six-week trial. In her closing statement, Assistant D.A. Mara McIlvain used a power-point presentation to drive home the youth of the alleged victims, their innocence and expectation, contrasted with Jon’s penchant for barely-legal porn, which she projected onto a screen for the jury.
 
The defense took four hours to wrap it up, with all three defense lawyers taking a whack at destroying the credibility of accusing witnesses. Leonard Levine delivered a rousing oratory: “These witnesses lied to you, and they lied to the court,” he said.
 
He noted that the prosecution based its case almost entirely on oral testimony. There was no physical evidence to back up the stories of rape. And he accused the detectives involved of failing to find the holes in the witnesses’ stories (this is demonstrably true), and of taking their stories at face value.
 
The jury is meant to begin weighing the case on Monday. Right now, it seems impossible to call this thing. Jon’s decision not to testify denied him a chance to create a sympathetic rapport with the jury. Some of the victims were credible, but not all of them were. Will this taint the whole enterprise? A jury is likely to want to punish Jon somehow, for something. But it will be hard to dismiss some witnesses as gold-diggers, or publicity hunters, while accepting others as legitimate.
 
This case that may never satisfy those of us who like clear answers - heroes and villains, and the satisfying thud of an obvious verdict. Let's wish the jury good luck.  
With so many victims and so much evidence, I’m hearing it could be a couple of weeks before there’s a verdict. 

October 22, 2008

Anand Jon Update: Defense in Full Swing

The defense has been putting on its case. Detective Cranham of the Beverly Hills police department was called to the stand and questioned as to whether she had interviewed the rape victims, or alleged ones, in person or by phone. It emerged that some were only interviewed by phone.

The defense is also trying to knock down allegations involving the suggestion that Jon drugged his victims. Questions are being asked to demonstrate that no date rape drugs were found in Jon's apartment. (But as I've noted earlier, there are photos that show alcohol in abundance.) The credibility of the accusers is being attacked - they wanted to make money off of accusing Jon, they were angry at him for being dumped. The defense has always maintained that the girls were, essentially, a conspiracy because they communicated with one another. I don't know that the jury will see it that way.

But this dances around the heart of the matter. I am told by people close to the defense team that Anand Jon will not be testifying. If true, that's a shame. We all would like to hear him convincingly deny the rape of nine women (actually, i've already heard him deny it, but it's quite another thing in open court). This says to me that his defense team feels that there are enough inconsistencies in the testimony of the rape victims to exonerate their client, or at least have a shot at that. All through this case, Jon has indicated to me that he couldn't wait to tell his story. Having spoken to him several times, I'm sure he'd be a convincing witness in his own defense.

But it's always a risk to put a defendant on the stand. Jon could come off as arrogant and lacking compassion. His belief that he has done no wrong at all may not sit well with a jury that, whatever the fine points of the law, would like to see a remorseful Lothario, at the very least. The problem there is that Jon truly believes in his own martyrdom. And his worshipful family has reinforced his deep faith that he has done nothing wrong. (Even my taxi driver in Dubai, an Indian from Kerala, had heard of Jon and said: "That fashion designer who's in trouble for rape?") My information is that the case will be dark on Friday, and that closing statements begin on Wednesday, October 29. I will try to be there for at least some of that, and fill you in.

October 12, 2008

Prosecution to Rest in Anand Jon; Defense this Week

Anand4 The prosecution nears the end of its run in the trial of Anand Jon. In more than two weeks of testimony, all nine women plaintiffs have taken the stand to accuse him of rape, and several more have testified as to his poor character, giving their versions of assault.

There have been emotional moments, and sidebar discussions involving intimidation, or alleged intimidation by Sanjana, Anand’s sister. It is hard to overstate how attached both Sanjana and her mother, Shashi, are to the accused, Anand. Throughout, Sanjana sits in the hall outside the trial, and apparently some witnesses find her dagger-gaze intimidating.

Regardless, the testimony on the stand from the plaintiffs has been as confounding as the accounts in the grand jury. On one hand, many of them have recounted heart-rending tales of being lured to Jon’s apartment and then raped. On the other hand, their behavior after the alleged rape is still difficult to fathom – failing to go to police, staying with Jon, paying him rent. And under cross-examination, some of the stories seem flimsy.Anand_family 

Among the more upsetting testimonies – and they are all upsetting – was Britney O., from Arroyo Grande. She testified that shortly after meeting Jon, she was given vodka, passed out, and awoke to the smell of Jon’s anus, and to find him sitting on her face.

(I should note that Sanjana and Anand insisted that he never drank alcohol, and didn’t have it around. The prosecution has introduced photos of Jon’s apartment with bottles of Grey Goose crowded into the freezer.)

But Britney O. was among the least convincing witnesses during the grand jury phase. She testified that Jon forced her to give him a blow job on the couch while two friends, Janice and another Brittany, sat on an adjacent couch. She’s disturbingly vague: “And I realized that his penis was in my mouth, and I didn’t even notice.” Then came the horrific encounter with Jon’s anus. But she called him a few days later with a fashion question: “I felt really weird and I didn’t want to, and I never intended on seeing him again, which I did not, so I didn’t want to have a friendship with him or anything.”

Many of the plaintiffs suggest they were drugged and plied with alcohol. But that leaves their accounts of rape hard to pin down. Several said they were raped when they were unconscious.

Personally, it seems to me that with such uneven testimony, the exhibits are the more convincing evidence against Jon thus far. His “conquest list,” in which he boasts of having “fst fkd” girls, and compliments one for “blow job good – swallow very well,” is just plain repulsive. (It is not necessarily evidence of rape, but it betrays a sexual obsessiveness that feels abnormal.)  Similarly, a video of him fingering the privates of a trembling, naked model is damning (there seems to be a difference of opinion whether he inserted his finger or not, but either way, it’s hardly acceptable designer-model interaction).

So with about half of the argument made, it's very hard to call this case. In the meantime, evidence is emerging of Britney O. having hours-long chats with a hacker in England who gave her information about how to tamper with Jon’s computer. If and when I get documentary proof of this, I will post it. The defense believes this shows evidence of a conspiracy against him.

The defense is scheduled to begin its case on Wednesday. I will keep you updated on any bombshells that emerge. What we all really want to see is Jon on the stand - denying. We should expect nothing less. Denial seems to reign supreme in this case, on both sides.

(Note to readers: I took down comments from previous posts that in my view got out of hand. I will leave these comments open for as long as the discourse remains civil and intelligent.)

September 27, 2008

Anand Jon Trial: Holly Gavel In the CrossHairs

Anand3Trial Update: Two alleged victims of the former designer have testified this month. The first Heather, had a blonde bob and a sweet smile. She testified that when she was just 14 in 2003, Jon tongue-kissed her at a fashion event. She trembled and teared up on the stand. Jon “terrified” her, she said. Under cross-examination, she admitted that at the time of going to the police about the incident, she had not mentioned that she was terrified, a key component in proving sexual assault.

More troublesome was Holly Gavel, who testified that Jon had raped her, but was among the group of 11 who the prosecutors removed just before the trial began. She was nonetheless called to testify, presumably to establish a pattern of Jon’s behavior.

But the prosecutors took a decided risk. Gavel's grand jury was among the least believable of those I read earlier this year, and she was similarly problematic on the stand. The 20-year-old detailed how Jon raped her in 2006, including oral and anal sex. But under two hours of cross-examination by Tony Brooklier, she seemed unable to remember much of what was asked of her. By one count, she said “I don’t remember” or ”I don’t know” more than 70 times.

Brooklier: “Why didn’t you ask for help?”

Gavel: “I don’t recall.”

And later:

Brooklier: “Isn’t it true that you have been lying throughout your testimony?

Gavel: “I don’t recall.”

Gavel lived with Anand Jon, paid him rent, and worked as his assistant. After she was supposedly raped by Jon, she went with his mother and sister to India. Why? “I wanted to get away,” she testified, “and AIDS awareness is a very important thing people need to know about.”

Victims who are not credible are not value-neutral in this trial. They will tip the balance in favor of the defendant, whether or not he is guilty, and whether or not other plaintiffs are credible. One wonders what prosecutors believe that witnesses like Holly add to the case. If her story is not strong enough to stand up under scrutiny, witnesses like this, with fantastic tales of assault and weak rejoinders under cross, lend weight to the argument of the defense, that there is some kind of vendetta at work in this case.

Next week – more victims.

b

September 14, 2008

Now There's Nine: Anand Jon Trial Opens

Anand2_2 “I am my own God. I can get whatever I want.”

Thus did deputy district attorney Frances Young quote the target of her prosecution, former designer Anand Jon, whose trial on multiple rape charges opened on Friday.

The prosecutor used a power point presentation, with the previous quote as one of the slides, to paint a picture of Jon as a predatory sex fiend. For well over an hour, she distilled the most graphic testimony of plaintiffs who gave grand jury testimony a year ago, describing how Jon lured them to his apartment, and then assaulted them sexually. Young offered up a glimpse of the coming argument as to why almost none of these victims went to the police, or why many of them followed Jon to other cities. "Human reactions to trauma," read the card, "Fight, flight, freeze."

Before getting started, though, Young asked the judge to drop yet another plaintiff from the original list of 20 women accusing Jon of assault. That struck four more counts against him, leaving just 25 alleged crimes against nine women. Defense attorney Leonard Levine told reporters this was a sign that the prosecution's case "was falling apart."

Only two women remain accusing him of the most serious charge, forcible rape.

Still. Nine women, if they are credible, are more than enough to put Jon away for the rest of his life. And the visual evidence, if circumstantial, is highly emotive; Young showed a videotape of Jon asking a 17-year-old to take off her clothes.

Throughout, Jon sat at the defense table, dressed in a suit, without a discernable reaction.

His lawyer, Levine, responded with a power-point of his own. "What are the issues?" read one card. "Where is the evidence?" read another.

The jury, comprising 6 women and 10 men (including four alternates) and with a racial mix, will have a challenging task ahead of them. Monday will bring the first witnesses, the victims themselves. In the absence of physical evidence to convict Jon, their testimony will be the whole case. Stay tuned.

September 04, 2008

Voir Dire for Anand Jon

UPDATE 9/6/08: Jury selection was completed on Friday. Opening statements are scheduled for next Friday, Sept. 12.

PREVIOUSLY: The trial of Anand Jon has begun in Los Angeles Superior Court downtown. As promised, I will be posting updates on the case. Yesterday and today lawyers dealt with procedural matters and arguments over whose and how many computers police seized from Jon's apartment. Today voir dire began, the process of jury selection. Judge David S. Wesley cleared the courtroom, so no reports yet from that process.

Opening statements are set for September 12.

(Thanks to Los Angeles Magazine for linking to these posts through the trial, at www.lamag.com.)

August 26, 2008

SHOCKING PRETRIAL NEWS: D.A. TO DROP HALF OF THE CASE AGAINST ANAND JON

Anandjon1 On the eve of the trial for serial rape of ex fashion designer Anand Jon, the district attorney on the case has announced her intention to dismiss half of the alleged victims, and more than half of the 59 counts against him -- including forcible, rape, sexual exploitation of a child, sexual battery and forcible oral copulation.


During pretrial motions on Monday, deputy district attorney Frances Young said she would be filing an amended indictment on Wednesday to reflect the reduced charges, as jury selection begins.


“We’re left with 10 victims and 29 remaining counts,” Jon’s attorney Tony Brooklier told me today. Jon, an Indian-born fashion designer, has been sitting in the Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles for a year, awaiting trial, all the time protesting his innocence. Now half his accusers have just evaporated.


What is the DA thinking? A spokeswoman for the D.A. refused to comment, citing a gag order by the judge. But a source in the prosecution office said that a decision was simply made “to streamline” the process, and get Jon “on the solids.”


Sounds like hogwash. The defendants that will be dropped tomorrow include some of the most unbelievable testimony that I read in the eight volumes of grand jury questioning. Notably dismissed is Katie W., the innocent young farm girl from outside Montgomery, Alabama who accused Jon of raping her in New York, but then followed him to Los Angeles where, she said, he raped her again. My story in Los Angeles magazine recounted a video of Katie W. found among Jon's effects, in which she cavorts for him naked, with no sense of shame or regret.


The others alleged victims to be dismissed were also noted in my story in this month’s Los Angeles magazine as problematic witnesses: Lindsay B., Lori B., Ashley H, Avery G.


The most troubling testimony came from yet another teen to be dismissed tomorrow. Chloe N testified that Jon had raped her vaginally and anally in the most heinous of ways. But she also said she had been molested as a child and that "stuff like that" had happend to her before. And she testified that she’d told no one of being  raped by Jon, not even her therapist, until the moment of the grand jury testimony: “And I still haven’t, other than this,” she said.


I have to wonder how closely the D.A.'s office was reading this testimony, while Jon sat in jail month after month. Also important to note is that most of the alleged victims to be dismissed tomorrow are key claimants in the New York case against Jon, which will be set for trial after Los Angeles.


More as news breaks in this fascinating case.

July 24, 2008

Thanks to Page Six, Radar, WWD

Who picked up on the Anand Jon exclusive story. Welcome to those readers from Page Six, Radar and WWD's Memo-pad! And also thanks to the many, many commentors on the story, worth reading below.

July 21, 2008

An Accused Serial Rapist Speaks, Ahead of Trial

Anand_3 I got an exclusive interview with Anand Jon, the former fashion designer who will go on trial in early September for the serial rape of his models. The article, which includes the first look by a reporter at eight volumes of the models' testimony against him at the grand jury, is in the August issue of Los Angeles magazine, out this week. It is amazing to note that Jon, who has been rotting in the L.A. County Men's Jail for more than a year, has been virtually ignored both by local and national media. Is it because he was a small-time designer, hanging on the coattails of friends like Paris Hilton and Michelle Rodriguez? Is it because his victims were small-time farm girls lured to the big city and unworthy of attention?

I am told by one lawyer that this will be the biggest rape case in California history: 20 women are scheduled to testify against him. Their testimony is damning. But it is not quite clear to me that what Jon has done, in every case, was rape. The grand jury testimony is extremely weak in many places, and the womens' testimony is at times not credible on its face. (They stayed with him despite the alleged rape; they followed him to other cities; their excuse for doing so, in some cases is, "I'm not really sure.") In the article, Jon protests his innocence. But his most searing words are in a letter he wrote me from jail, which was too long to include in the magazine. I am posting it here, and am interested in any and all comments. Anand Jon does not appear to be a nice guy. But that is not a crime in any state.

Here's how the letter starts: "I have not seen the sky in months, 6, maybe 7. Kind of easy to lose track of time and yet be unbearably aware of its existence. I am awakened at around 5:30 am usually and on court days (once or twice a month so far) about 4:30 am and then remain in shackles while being a "sergeant-escort" to a tiny moving metal vertical coffin in a van and transported underground to the downtown court." (the rest

And in the interest of balance, here is excerpted grand jury testimony of one accuser, Katie W.

April 14, 2007

Who Is Anand Jon?

Anand2 There's a lot to be said, and a lot more that will be said, about the story I've been intensively working on this past week (hence my quietude in this space) and that appears in tomorrow's Styles section. Anand Jon is a young, Indian-born designer who is facing 32 counts of rape and other types of sexual assault and misbehavior, against 12 -- yes, that's correct -- aspiring models. The story asks:

"So who is Anand Jon? A rapist? Or a mark? To some he is a garden variety arriviste, an overeager cad, who crossed the line into criminal territory when his sense of entitlement overwhelmed his good sense. To others he is a struggling design talent, who played by the same elastic set of rules that govern everything else in the celebrity world and fashion industry — except he was caught. "We all know that when success comes very young at a very high level, people somehow lose a part of their compass,” said Catherine Saxton, a longtime fashion publicist in New York, whose clients have included Dennis Basso, but not Mr. Jon. “He was flying in a very high crowd and flying in that crowd for quite some time.” On the other hand, “there are a lot of young girls who want to be in fashion, who want to be in shows, who want to be photographed — who want it,” she continued. “It’s very easy to be subverted.”

Read the rest here; it sounds like a made-for-tv movie, but is no stranger for being true. That said, I guess we can expect the tv version, eventually.

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