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
What I heard was but the melody of children at play . . . and then I knew that the hopelessly poignant thing was not Lolita’s absence from my side, but the absence of her voice from that concord.
Los Angeles’ Fashion Week begins in a few days, but Anand Jon Alexander, the Indian-born clothing designer professionally known as “Anand Jon,” is otherwise engaged — and may well be for the rest of his life. Every weekday he can be found in Department 102 of downtown’s grungy criminal-courts building listening to prosecution witnesses accuse him of being a serial rapist. Before entering the courtroom, Jon, 34, changes out of his county-jail jumpsuit and into an elegant suit and tie. For a month, the ponytailed designer has sat with his high-powered defense team, hearing his accusers, occasionally taking notes — but with each witness, he seems to sink deeper into his expensive threads, aware, perhaps, that even if he beats the 25 counts leveled at him, he faces later trials in New York and Dallas.
Apart from sexual battery, Jon’s charges include forcible oral copulation, lewd acts upon a child, sexual penetration by a foreign object and possession of child pornography. The original complaint involved 59 counts that concerned 20 women, but by the time of the trial’s September 12 opening statements, the District Attorney’s Office had streamlined its case to nine alleged victims who were between the ages of 14 and 21 during their encounters with Jon in Los Angeles.
Even in its quietest moments, the Jon case is a volatile fable of rape, ambitious but naïve girls, the rag trade and feral male vanity. It is a trial junkie’s dream. Inexplicably, the proceedings have so far garnered little media attention. Still, the curious occasionally drop by Judge David Wesley’s courtroom, including veteran deputy D.A. Pat Dixon, the D.A.’s special-prosecutions director, Richard Doyle, and even Phil Spector Juror No. 6, who’d been identified during that trial as a movie-industry executive. Visitors find an extremely collegial atmosphere at the bar in the moments before jurors arrive, an informal time in which prosecutors and defense attorneys laugh at each other’s jokes or review the meals they enjoyed at restaurants the previous night.
Jon made his initial splash on New York runways in the late 1990s and was soon dressing such celebrities as Laurence Fishburne and Paula Abdul. He was named a 2002 People’s Choice Award winner for his novel work with fabrics and bead patterns, inspired by his native India. Jon appeared on America’s Next Top Model and in publications from Newsweek to London’s Daily Telegraph. His world came crashing down in March 2007, when the Beverly Hills Police Department, responding to a minor’s accusation of sexual assault, raided his apartment at 320 North Palm Drive. At the heart of the D.A.’s case is the notion that Jon believed he was above all earthly law.
“I am my own god,” one witness, a college religion major, says he told her. “I get whatever I want.”
To buttress their allegation that Jon’s motivation was not erotic gratification but the humiliation of his victims through painful sex, prosecutors Frances Young and Mara McIlvain, who both come from the D.A.’s Sex Crimes Division, began their case by presenting half a dozen background witnesses, who were then followed by the nine young women whom Jon is accused of raping or sodomizing. The women’s stories unfolded with chilling similarity. Between 2001 and 2007, the nine allege, Jon contacted them through the Internet (often through the women’s MySpace accounts or modeling Web sites), inviting them to visit his Manhattan or Beverly Hills studios, where, they say, he promised work or introductions to the fashion world.
His alleged victims say they were assured reimbursed airfare, drivers, secure models-only living quarters and, if they were modeling, fees for their time displaying Jon’s creations. With a single exception, however, no one ever met them at JFK or LAX; a call to Jon would elicit instructions for the women to take cabs to his studio — which was actually Jon’s home. Jon’s digs have invariably been described as “filthy,” “disgusting” and “gross” — a disheveled crash pad that was really a clothes closet turned inside out.
“There were cockroaches on the floor,” remembers Jessie B, the first of Jon’s alleged L.A. victims to testify. “The garbage was filled with tampons, and there were bras and bottles in the shower.”
Sometimes, according to testimony, Jon would surprise a newly arrived guest by inviting her to change into pajamas, and then, on his air mattress of a bed, show his press book, which featured glowing reviews and photos of himself partying with the likes of Paris Hilton. For other girls, he’d apparently set a different mood entirely by producing a video camera and inviting them to pose nude. Or he might offer a glass of wine, vodka or orange juice — drinks, these women say, that left them lethargic and nearly paralyzed.