Anand Jon Trial: A Postscript

Anand Jon: The Long Goodbye?
Anand Jon: The Long Goodbye?

In the end, nothing came as a surprise. Yesterday, well past the court's normal 4 p.m. closing time and following an all-day hearing, Judge David Wesley tersely rejected fashion designer Anand Jon Alexander's motion for a new trial. Wesley then sentenced him to an initial 14-year state prison term, which will then be followed by an indeterminate sentence lasting anywhere from 45 years to life. Throughout that morning and afternoon, Anand Jon, as he his known professionally, had energetically and, at times, defiantly attacked the process that had kept him imprisoned since 2007: He'd been racially persecuted because of his Indian birth, he said; a rogue juror had tainted his conviction, his five-member defense team had been incompetent, the cops and D.A. had withheld evidence, former business partners had framed him and the young and under-aged women who'd accused him of rape had ganged up on him and conspired to coordinate a case based on lies.

Jon, 35, was acting as his own attorney yesterday, and, despite the inevitable fumbling of an absolute beginner, managed at times to strike a compelling figure who believed he had been terribly wronged by the judicial system. But there were moments when he lashed out at the would-be young models who were drawn to him for professional advancement, as though daring them to challenge his high moral position. If Jon was issuing an invitation, it was answered around 4:30 p.m., when the door to the jury room opened and the jury box filled with a dozen or so of his accusers, young women who were incongruously dressed for a summer party, but were here to read victim's statements.

Only three read their statements, and all three struggled through

tears to complete their speeches that were aimed directly at Jon. "I

was 14," said Autumn A. "You took my adolescence, my trust, my dream

and completely manipulated them for your sexual desires." Throughout

the three statements, Jon looked directly at his accusers and showed no

emotion. Likewise, Jon betrayed no expression when Wesley handed him

his sentence, which almost completely matched the prosecution's

sentencing request, except that the judge allowed two misdemeanors to

be satisfied with the time Jon has already spent in jail. Short of the

far-fetched possibility that he receives a pardon, Jon's only hope of

escaping life in prison is to win a new trial on an appeal that is sure

to follow. Wesley's body language and demeanor suggested that the only

reason he was giving Jon the run of the courtroom during yesterday's

marathon hearing was to make the success of such an appeal as unlikely

as possible. One of his last acts was to have Jon remanded immediately

to the state Department of Corrections.

Jon was found guilty last November of 16 counts of sexual assault

and at the time his lawyers said an appeal was a given. But something

far more promising emerged after Jon's conviction - irrefutable proof

that one of the jurors, Alvin Dymally, had reached out and contacted

Jon's sister, Sanjana Alexander, before jury deliberations had begun.

As details of Dymally's ambiguous overtures to Alexander unfolded in

the months that followed, along with the news of how the District

Attorney's office had sabotaged a court-permitted tape-recorded meeting

between Alexander and Dymally, it did appear as though the defense had

a strong case to make about juror misconduct.

And so Jon's trial was followed by a remarkable courtroom afterlife

that lasted until yesterday. During this time his lawyers first sought

to have the entire case taken out of the hands of the D.A.'s office and

placed with the state attorney general. When that failed, they

forcefully fought for a new trial, based on Dymally's misconduct.

Although clearly upset by Dymally's rogue initiatives, and by the

D.A.'s handling of Dymally, Judge Wesley denied a new trial and all

Sanjana and Dymally got out of the proceedings were two contempt

citations that will be heard later this month.

On July 10, in one last gamble, Jon discharged his lawyers to act

pro se, and again asked for a new trial based on what he called new

evidence - the principle reason for a judge to set aside a verdict in

favor of a second trial. In a day of odd twists, Jon had a 2008 article

of mine about the trial entered as an evidence exhibit. He said the

piece had helped torpedo his case because, he claimed, Dymally had

admitted reading it against Wesley jury instructions to avoid that

issue of the L.A. Weekly. Throughout the morning Jon returned again and

again to the feature as "lethal" and "prejudicial" to his defense, even

though several of my trial reports were later reposted on a Web site

set up in Jon's support. For a while, then, there was a theoretical

possibility that the Weekly's allegedly prejudicial piece could have

sprung Jon from his verdict and into a new trial.

It didn't happen. At the end of the long day, reporters and the

crews from 20/20 and a documentary about the case followed

co-prosecutors Frances Young and Mara McIlvain, both from the D.A.'s

sex crimes division, up to the Criminal Courts Building's 18th floor

for a late news conference. Both women still rose to denounce Jon and

his crimes, but now, after the trial eight-month postscript, they

looked fatigued and ready to put the case as far behind them as

possible. After only a few minutes the questions stopped, as though

even the trial media had had enough. There wasn't, after all, anything

left to say.

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