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
Again, Holly jumped at the chance: “I thought, Beverly Hills — that’s a great way to get away, living with other girls.”
And she was off to California. In fact, the place Jon had set up for her was his apartment on North Palm Drive, for which Holly says he insisted she pay him a deposit plus first month’s rent. She remained there for three months, taking a stab at an acting class that met once a week, although most of her time was spent cleaning Jon’s apartment and working as his unpaid assistant. She guessed she had processed about 200 young women who came to be “interviewed” by Jon. Holly often diverted them from the chaotic apartment by taking them to the relative serenity of the building’s roof, all the while assuring the prospective models of Jon’s legitimacy. Her stay at Chez Jon ended with the designer’s arrest.
Holly G’s testimony was riveting yet problematic. Like most of the other women who have testified against Jon, Holly exhibited signs of Stockholm syndrome, but in far more conspicuous ways. Her credibility wasn’t helped when she admitted to a shoplifting arrest, explaining that a former girlfriend had placed stolen items in Holly’s shopping bag when she wasn’t looking. Holly also denied stealing from Jon’s apartment after his arrest, only to be confronted with an e-mail she sent a friend announcing she had done just that.
Needless to say, defense attorney Anthony Brooklier found none of this believable and even questioned how Jon could have committed forced oral copulation with Holly.
“Oh, I see,” mocked Brooklier. “He sorta snuck his penis in your mouth? Why didn’t you run out of the apartment?”
“That’s not the initial reaction of a victim,” Holly answered, leaving the distinct impression she was repeating something she’d been taught, although she denied to Brooklier she had been prepped for the cross-examination.
Even worse for her were phone records indicating calls and text messages sent during her first hours at Jon’s New York home — suggesting her cell phone’s battery was far from dead at the time.
In fact, the prosecution witnesses have been hit hard by their own phone and e-mail records. It seems like a recurring routine: As soon as one of the women tells Young or McIlvain that she cut off contact with Jon the moment she left his apartment, a defense lawyer will confront her with a printout of a flirtatious e-mail she’d sent after the alleged rape.
There are credible reasons for the women’s seemingly odd behavior and, anticipating the questionable perceptions their witnesses might present, the prosecution called trauma and abuse expert Dr. Ann Burgess early on to offer testimony on the effects of sexual assault on victims. Burgess has written several books on rape and sexual offenders and, with an associate, coined the phrase “rape-trauma syndrome” in the 1970s. She began her career as a Boston nurse in 1958 and, today, with her cropped hair and steely bearing, brought with her the fear-no-evil air of a Kinsey researcher. She told both prosecutors and defense lawyer Eric Chase how rape victims will not always flee imminent danger, or the scene of their own rape. Some will be paralyzed with fear, others will later try to deny it happened by seeking out the perpetrator for proof of his good character. This last phenomenon — the seeming need of a woman to stay in touch with her rapist — is something Young and McIlvain will have to remind jurors of later if they are to keep their witnesses from appearing untruthful.
The defense will soon present its case and, at the moment, it’s easy to imagine Jon beating one of the raps, maybe even two. But getting a jury to disbelieve the similar testimonies of the nine alleged L.A. victims seems impossible.
“It makes it difficult,” attorney Diamond says of such cumulative testimony, “unless the defense can establish that [the witnesses] know each other. [That] should be avoided — it’s careless for [a D.A.’s Office] not to keep them separate.”
However, it’s become apparent that there has been contact between the witnesses. Holly G, for example, told jurors she and Kristin S were staying at the same hotel during their testimony, although she denied they discussed the case.
“Housing witnesses in the same facility,” notes L.A. defense attorney Sara Caplan, “could pose substantial constitutional issues and could be cause for a mistrial.”
Looking at those photographs of Jon’s topsy-turvy apartment, one fixes on the sad sleeping bags and mattresses that his assistants used as beds. How can modern women be so thoroughly trusting of a stranger to fly, on their own dime, to a strange city with virtually no money in their pockets?