Anand Jon's Post-Verdict Twilight Zone
The court afterlife of the Anand Jon trial -- a post-verdict twilight filled with sentencing hearings and new trial motions -- has now stretched out longer than the trial itself. That proceeding ran a mere two months before the Beverly Hills fashion designer was convicted of one count of rape and 15 charges of sexual assault. At that time, co-prosecutor Frances Young described Jon as "a 34-year-old pedophile masquerading as a fashion designer." Little did Young guess, back then, that a rogue juror was setting in motion events that would, at the very least, postpone Jon's sentencing for months and, at worst, could result in a new trial to be prosecuted not by the D.A.'s office but by the state Attorney General's. L'affaire Jon has become a half-year telenovela masquerading as a trial.
Briefly, a juror named Alvin Dymally began contacting Anand Jon's sister, Sanjana, shortly before the trial's conclusion in November. Dymally's outreach began, like many a high school melodrama, with a note passed in a cafeteria. Except this cafeteria was located in the Criminal Courts Building and Dymally was way out of line contacting anyone connected with either side of the trial. On the note was a phone number for Sanjana to call which she did, although nothing apparently resulted from the contact. Dymally, however, as Juror 12, soon thereafter proved extremely balky during deliberations and Judge David Wesley had to question in court, separately, Dymally and his fellow jurors who claimed he was refusing to discuss the case with them. For a time it had seemed a very real possibility that Dymally would be booted off the panel, though Wesley allowed him to remain on it.
These scenarios remain theories because District Attorney's
investigators intercepted and questioned Dymally before he could enter the Starbucks -- and apparently scared him off. These investigators,
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Jon's lawyers claim, had been invited to observe the Starbucks meeting
but ended up scuttling it. The defense claims the D.A.'s office is now
so tainted by this incident that it must recuse itself from any new
trial that may eventually be granted. Such a new proceeding, the
defense hopes, would be prosecuted by Attorney General Jerry Brown's
However, on January 6, Dymally contacted Sanjana again to tell her he
had news about the verdict. She arranged to meet him the following day
at a Starbucks. This time she alerted her brother's lawyers, who
alerted the judge and prosecutors. On January 7 the defense team, with
Judge Wesley's assent, had Sanjana wired to secretly record her
conversation with Dymally. There are three theories about Dymally's
intentions: 1) he had information about the jurors' deliberations that
may have helped Jon get a new trial; 2) he was attracted to Sanjana and
wanted to date her; 3) he planned to somehow blackmail Sanjana.
Last Friday's recusal hearing largely resembled the last one, with a couple of D.A. investigators reconstructing their
ham-fisted interception. They also explained that they had no faith in the defense's
plan to record Dymally nor, for that matter, could they rule out the possibility that the
entire meeting was a complete con -- a pre-scripted
charade between Dymally and Sanjana. Or, perhaps, it was an attempt by Sanjana
to trick the wayward juror into inadvertently expressing agreement with
her about some aspect of the trial that could be beneficial to the defense's push for a new trial.
Throughout his direct examination of
investigators Chandera Parker and Ronald Valdivia, defense attorney
Ronald Richards strongly implied the D.A.'s office was never serious
about learning anything from Dymally -- that the investigators were
merely using the interview as a ruse to scare him off from giving Jon's
sister some important piece of information.
with his witnesses, which included such top D.A. officials as
Richard Doyle and Curtis Hazell. Then Frances Young called Sanjana to
the witness stand to explain why she kept Dymally's early
communications to herself.
"I was afraid," Sanjana said. "This
man held our lives in his hands." She also said she only called Dymally
on pay telephones, so that he would not know her cell phone number. As
Sanjana's new lawyer, the veteran attorney Harlan Braun, helplessly looked on, Young got Sanjana to explain
how this worked, whereupon Jon's sister replied that when she would
sometimes spot a pay phone when driving with her husband, Richard, and
ask him to pull over to let her make a call.
Did she, Young
asked, ever discuss Dymally with her husband prior to January 6?
Sanjana replied that she hadn't, but it's difficult to imagine anyone not
having to explain why she would not be using a cell phone to place a
call. One reason comes to mind -- her husband, Richard Bernard, was
a working member of the defense team, having maintained its
records and organized its digital archives during the trial. As such, he might have had
an obligation to disclose to the court his knowledge about Juror No. 12.
more discomfiting questions, however, would soon be asked Sanjana --
and Richard. For that morning Judge Wesley announced his intention to
look into the matter of a flyer attacking Anand Jon's accusers. This
was no ordinary handbill, however, but a single-page printout entitled
"Prostitutes for the Prosecution" that featured more than a dozen nude
or semi-nude photos of the young women who'd testified against Jon
during his trial. The document identified the women by name and age --
many of them were under 18 years old at the time of the photographs,
which appeared on social networking sites and other online locales.
assembled the flyer? Young asked, to which Sanjana quietly replied the
name of her friend and house guest, Lauren Boyette. After Sanjana stepped down, co-prosecutor Mara McIlvain called Richard
Bernard to the stand. A rather one-way colloquy followed, with
Bernard pleading the Fifth Amendment to most of McIlvain's questions.
Bernard's predicament was obvious since, as the digital custodian of
the defense's records, his computers could have provided a virtual
library for anyone wishing to access information about Jon's accusers --
including those salacious photographs.
appearance was even briefer. Summoned from the court corridor where
she'd been waiting, the young model was told by Judge Wesley that he
had assigned a temporary lawyer for her and she was to cease any
dissemination of witness information she may have in her possession.
Wesley made it clear Boyette could be in trouble for the flyer and he
also angrily told the four defense attorneys present how damaging these
kind of shenanigans were to the defense's credibility.
needn't have bothered. Ronald Richards and Leonard Levine looked as
though they were about to explode in frustration. They had come to
court that morning to press home what seemed to be a credible motion
for recusal of the entire District Attorney's office, but their case had gotten sidetracked by stories of notes passed in a cafeteria and
the circulation of the kind of gossipy flyers that might be excused when secretly stuffed
into high school lockers -- but which were not tarnishing the defense by
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