By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
CELEBRITY FASHION DESIGNER Anand Jon is facing possible life in prison for committing sexual assaults on 10 women, some of whom were minors when the alleged rapes and sodomies occurred. Defense attorney Donald Marks, however, revealed his client’s true concerns during a recent pretrial hearing (see blogs.laweekly.com/ladaily, “Anand Jon Rape Trial Nears”).
Marks asked Judge David S. Wesley to ensure, during trial, that if a certain Jane Doe victim testified that she “believed he was a legitimate fashion designer,” it would be made clear that she wasn’t somehow implying Jon might not be a bona fide professional — just that she presumed Jon’s MySpace résumé was true.
To the very end in the fashion world, it’s all about the label.
Charges against Jon include lewd acts upon a child, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, sexual battery, forcible oral copulation, forcible rape and sexual penetration by a foreign object. The Indian-born Jon is accused of engaging, between 2001 and 2007, in a pattern of luring “Caucasian women between the ages of 14 and 29” to his “studios” (in reality, his apartments) in New York, Dallas and Los Angeles, with talk of turning them into models. Testimony begins next week.
Contacted through the Internet, the women were promised plane tickets, “models-only” housing, modeling fees and living expenses. Instead, the indictment alleges, what the women got was Jon, whom the D.A.’s trial summary depicts as a dissembling predator:
“Don’t worry, I’m not putting it all the way in,” Jon is quoted telling a 16-year-old in one prosecution motion. “You’ll still have your virginity.”
Now 34, Jon made a splash nine years ago with expensive, diaphanous dresses noted for their beadwork and artistic allusions to Jon’s native India. They were modeled by Paris and Nicky Hilton. He custom-designed for such celebrities as actress Rosario Dawson and media diva Oprah Winfrey, and appeared on America’s Next Top Model.
However, prosecutors will paint a portrait of a Subcontinental sybarite who became better known for his partying. He was arrested at his Beverly Hills apartment in March 2007 and is in custody at the county jail.
The Indian press has taken up Jon’s cause, and his own Web page resembles an Amnesty International appeal, featuring a photograph of a doe-eyed Jon looking soulfully at the viewer, posed below a quote by Mahatma Gandhi.
Two weeks ago, the D.A. dropped 30 charges from the original 59 and halved the number of alleged victims, partly due to a need to streamline the case by not saddling a jury with a long and numbing trial. It also may be that the D.A. wished to save money by removing victims whom prosecutors would have to fly in from New York and Texas.
Almost all of the victims dropped from the grand jury indictment are adults, not minors, suggesting prosecutors may use the age of the remaining victims to turn jurors against Jon.
FOR ALL THE COUNTS leveled against Jon, however, the case is not so black and white. The prosecution is going to have an enormous problem trying to get some victims to convincingly explain why they waited months or years to contact police. Moreover, nearly all of them remained in Jon’s harem of silent beauties after he allegedly forced himself upon them, accompanying Jon to parties and fashion galas and doing his housework — while continuing to allegedly submit to his sexual demands.
On the other hand, Jon’s habitat is like no other — the fashion landscape is prowled by underaged and professionally ambitious women. Jon’s defense attorneys, Donald Marks and Leonard Levine, will undoubtedly pound this into the jurors’ minds.
Marks and Levine are virtuosi in the defense of accused sex offenders. Past Levine clients include convicted pedophile priests Michael Stephen Baker and Michael Edwin Wempe, USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and actor Jeffrey Jones; Marks has represented Disney Internet executive Patrick J. Naughton and Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss.
Jon may feel the worst charge is that he is a wannabe in the fashion and celebrity worlds. Margaret Schell, who co-owns the fashion PR firm SPR and is a veteran of the L.A. runway scene, is one insider who has never even seen Jon’s work. “Since the Internet explosion, so many people have come along and become a designer,” she says. “Now anyone can launch a collection and get press.”
Today, getting press is the least of Jon’s worries.