By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Judge David Wesley takes the bench on April 1 for fashion designer Anand Jon’s latest sentencing hearing, following his conviction in November on 15 counts of sexual assault and one count of rape. Nearly everyone involved is in the courtroom except the defendant, Anand Jon Alexander, better known by his brand name Anand Jon. There’s Jon’s sister, Sanjana, wearing a pale-green scarflike wrap — will her brother enter wearing a green tie? During the trial his ties matched her wraps. But at the last hearing he wore the orange shirt and trousers of a county-jail inmate. He was also handcuffed.
Richard Doyle, head of the D.A.’s special-prosecutions division, arrives, and court watchers notice that there seems to be a rep present from the state Attorney General’s Office — Deputy Attorney General Steven Matthews. The defense is seeking to have a new trial with the D.A.’s Office replaced by counsel from the California Attorney General’s Office.
Moments later Jon makes his entrance. He’s wearing a suit — and a pale-green tie.
Call it the extension of March Madness. Those of us reporting on Jon’s post-trial hearings have known for more than a month that today’s hearing would likely take on the explosive charges that the District Attorney’s Office had thwarted a January 7 meeting between Jon’s sister and a rogue juror who’d expressed to her his sympathy for the defendant. Yet some of us in the media came to the hearing speculating that Judge Wesley would reject the defense’s motion for a new trial and summarily sentence Jon, who faces the possibility of life in prison.
April Fool’s, it quickly turns out, but the madness continues throughout the day. During the hearing, Jon’s lead defense attorney, Leonard Levine, questions a list of witnesses who were connected to the trial and to the bizarre events surrounding Sanjana Jon and Juror No. 12. A little recap is in order: Toward the end of the trial, and before deliberations had begun, Juror No. 12 contacted Jon’s sister in the courthouse’s cafeteria and gave her his phone number on a slip of paper.
Then, after the trial, Sanjana allegedly got a call from Juror No. 12 requesting a meeting.
“You know we can help,” the man is said to have told her. “We need to meet with you alone.”
A meeting was arranged to take place in a Starbucks on January 7. It wasn’t clear today whether the juror and Sanjana were acting against court instructions — or whether they thought they were — by meeting nearly two months after Anand Jon’s conviction. The juror definitely broke the law, however, if he reached out to Sanjana during the trial, or if he really said, as alleged, “We know this is a difficult time for your mother and brother. Tell them not to worry. We know your brother’s innocent. Everything’s going to be okay.”
What the maverick juror had on his mind may never be known. When Sanjana disclosed her planned meeting to Anand’s lawyers, they contacted Judge Wesley shortly before the scheduled meeting, informing him and also prosecutors Mara McIlvain and Frances Young about the meeting. The attorneys asked Wesley’s permission to place a wire on Sanjana for the Starbucks meeting, in order to learn the juror’s intentions. Wesley acceded to the request, agreeing that it was possible that the juror could be trying to carry out an extortion plot. (Without that extortion element it would have been illegal for civilians on the defense team to run a surreptitious recording of the juror.)
The D.A.’s Office assigned a team of investigators to attend the Starbucks sit-down as unobtrusive background actors. However, when the juror approached the coffeehouse, investigators intercepted the man and attempted to interview him for 15 minutes. During that time they divulged to him that they were investigating a possible case of jury tampering in the Jon trial. “Weirded out,” as the juror described himself to the investigators, he left the scene without meeting with Sanjana.
At today’s hearing, the defense’s Levine wants to find out why the D.A.’s Office interfered with the Starbucks meeting. Why, he asks throughout the day, couldn’t the D.A. investigators have allowed the meeting to take place, and then interviewed the juror afterward? The clear implication from Levine’s questions is that the defense believes the prosecution, in order to protect the guilty verdicts it has won, deliberately sabotaged a meeting whose secretly recorded conversations might result in a mistrial.
Deputy district attorneys McIlvain and Young appear ill at ease in their unaccustomed roles as witnesses compelled to explain their actions. Both prosecutors tell Levine that they observe a hands-off attitude in regard to their department’s investigators and let them run the surveillance as they saw fit. McIlvain even says she hadn’t inquired about the results of the critical Starbucks meeting after it had been interrupted by the investigators, and only learned later about what had transpired.
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