Endgame: Anand Jon's Lawyers Fight for New Trial
One never knows what to expect when entering the madhouse that is the Anand Jon courtroom - known more formally in Superior Court directories as Department 102. Jon, the Indian-born fashion designer, was convicted of 15 counts of sexual assault and one rape charge last November. He was to be sentenced January 13 and faced a minimum prison term of 67 years behind bars. Then news of a maverick juror's actions sent this case tumbling into more than four months of limbo - where it remains today. Jon's sister, Sanjana Alexander, claimed Juror No. 12, Alvin Dymally, had contacted her several times during and after the trial. The defense seized upon this contact to ask that Jon's convictions be set aside in favor of a new trial.
If matters were only this simple, a ruling on that motion could have been made months ago by Judge David Wesley, a fair man with apparently inexhaustible patience. Things became complicated from the outset because the defense didn't merely wish for a new trial - Jon's lawyers demanded one prosecuted by the state attorney general's office, in which the Los Angeles District Attorney's office would play no part. This was because, they claimed, the D.A.'s office had sabotaged their efforts, which had been condoned (though not encouraged) by Wesley, to secretly tape record a meeting between Dymally and Sanjana Alexander. (See "Anand Jon's Post-Verdict Twilight Zone") On April 27 the judge denied the defense's request to recuse the D.A.'s office; a new-trial hearing is scheduled to begin May 27, stretching out this process longer than the trial itself.
Matters have gotten baroquely weird because of questions about the
veracity of Sanjana Alexander's statements regarding Juror No. 12.
Prosecutors and D.A. investigators have made no secret that they
thought there was a real possibility that Alexander's "sting" meeting
with Alvin Dymally was a staged ruse -- or perhaps, that Dymally had
never contacted her in the way she described. (The first contact was
supposedly a note passed in the court cafeteria; the second, when
Dymally allegedly broke away from fellow jurors to step into the same
elevator Alexander was taking; the third was by phone after the
If the ruse fears sounded like D.A. paranoia, the reason for the
prosecution's doubts became clear during an April 17 hearing: Deputy
District Attorney Frances Young believed that Alexander was in the
process of shopping her brother's case to 20/20 producer Teri Whitcraft
and that Alexander had told Whitcraft that Dymally hadn't actually
contacted her in the manner she claimed. Young, who has spoken with
Whitcraft, said the producer had, in exchange for an exclusive
interview with Jon for 20/20, agreed to also profile the trial.
Whitcraft anxiously followed the slow pace of several hearings because
ABC Television wanted the show to appear during this month's sweeps
period. Here's Young examining Alexander:
Young: And during that time that you have spoken to her, isn't it
true that you admitted to Teri Whitcraft that you actually never had a
conversation with Juror Number 12 prior to the verdict, there were hand
gestures, but no conversations? Isn't that true?
Alexander: I don't think we had this conversation.
Young: Don't you have regular conversations with her about the -
this motion, this hearing, this recusal motion and this motion for a
new trial, because aren't these motions holding up Teri Whitcraft's
segment on 20/20?
Alexander: Yeah, but I don't discuss this with her.
Young: . . . you didn't tell Teri "I never actually, in fact, had
conversations with Juror Number 12, they were just hand gestures"?
Alexander: I don't recall.
The idea that the defense's recusal and new-trial might be viewed as
formalities "holding up" the airing of a TV show gives one pause. It
must give Jon's lawyers a lot worse, as they have seen their motions
delayed over questions not only about Alexander's trustworthiness but
also over an Internet flyer, picaresquely titled, "Prostitutes for the
Prosecution," issued by the Jon camp showing photos of his under-aged
accusers in nude or semi-nude poses. In fact, the exasperation on the
faces and in the voices of Leonard Levine and other attorneys is
evident - along with occasional comments.
"Lookit," Levine said during one April 17 sidebar conversation,
"this could end up being the biggest hoax or whatever. I don't think it
is, but that's a separate issue."
In fact, there are two Anand Jon defenses. One is the legal battle
fought in court, the other is the ad hoc effort by his sister and other
supporters, through their Web site, to drum up local public support as
well as media sympathy in India. One tactic of Jon's supporters has
been to portray him as a victim of American racism and xenophobia.
Their chief bill of accusations is a 35-page document of tightly spaced
type called, "Is Brown the New Black?" It claims, among other things,
that "[b]oth the government agents and the 'so-called victims' were
exposed to have made vile racial jokes/comments like 'India Head' and
'curry smelling dick.'"
"Is Brown the New Black?" also charges, though in sometimes vague
and repetitive phrases, that a conspiracy was engineered by one of
Jon's former business partner, with connivance from angry former Jon
models and assistants, to put him behind bars. "The New Black"
describes Jon's situation as "a Hollywood horror movie based on absurd
false allegations by a group of scorned women that an overzealous
prosecutor hyped up with their blatant abuse of power."
The crux of this conspiracy theory involves one of Jon's business
partners being removed from check-writing privileges in Jon's
denim-design company, Jeanisis Fashion Inc. Out of revenge and greed,
the theory goes, the partner tried to set Jon up for arrest for sexual
assault on minors at the time when Jeanisis was just receiving
capitalization from the Joseph Stevens & Co. Inc. investment firm
in New York. A Securities and Exchange Commission filing signed by Jon
on July 17, 2006, lists Stevens as Jeanisis' sole investor. Jon was
arrested in March, 2007.
From this stems another charge made by Jon's supporters -- that many
of his accusers were recruited by the disgruntled partner's mistress,
who also, supposedly, is busy trying to generate interest in a reality
show about models, and that the prosecution's case rests upon a
quicksand pit of fabricated charges made by gold diggers. "The New
Black" is not shy in assailing these gold diggers (many of whom
testified as sexual assault victims in Jon's trial), claiming that
"most [were] involved in extortion, theft, previous false allegations,
illegal drug use and distribution, violence, mental instability and
working in the porn industry and as escorts and prostitutes."
From a distance, when all of the trial's more inconsistent testimony
against Jon is added in, the conspiracy theory looks somewhat
compelling. The problem with the evil-business-partner theory, however,
is that it was not part of the defense's strategy in Jon's trial - a
trial that ended in November. It's hard to imagine that Leonard Levine
and company, should they get their second chance to save Jon with a new
trial, will want to push conspiracy scenarios on a new jury.
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