Anand Jon Prosecution: Up in Smoke?

Today jurors are on their third day of deliberations of charges that fashion designer Anand Jon committed acts of rape and sexual battery against teenaged girls and young women. The original complaint comprised 59 counts, involving 20 alleged victims. Over time that number got whittled down to its present 23 counts involving nine women. Such winnowing is often done to streamline complex cases and save the D.A.’s office travel expenses for its witnesses — but also here, presumably, because the D.A. found some witnesses and alleged victims less believable than others. If that’s so, the trial has left court watchers in Department 102 wondering just how bad those deleted witnesses must have been, given the shaky performance of several of the prosecution’s background witnesses and accusers who did appear during the trial.

Previous blogs here have cited specific questionable testimony and memory lapses from alleged victims and supporting witnesses. Other troubling aspects of the prosecution’s witnesses and of its case in general include:

• When defense attorney Tony Brooklier showed alleged victim Amanda C provocative photos of herself taken, when she was 17, with her cell phone camera, she claimed some of the photos weren’t of her. Why, Brooklier asked, did she send the remaining ones to Jon? “I don’t know,” she answered opaquely. “They were just in my camera.” Likewise, when shown proof that she texted Jon 58 times in one day after the alleged incident, Amanda said she had “no idea” what her messages were about.

• The rape examinations that were conducted of some of the alleged victims could not establish that non-consensual sexual activity had occurred.

• For all the name-dropping of the date-rape drug GHB, no traces of the drug were ever tested positive among beverages found at Jon’s apartments.

• A DNA test of a tampon belonging to alleged victim Jessie B established the presence of Jon’s DNA but couldn’t, of course, create a narrative of the couple’s sexual encounter. This kind of ambiguity lies at the center of the D.A.’s case because if the couple’s coupling had been consensual, then no crime was involved.

There are other examples of how prosecutors have tried to spin Jon’s behavior as somehow criminal:

• Porn troves found on his computers came from commercial sites. The fact that these sites had names like Gag on My Cock and Teens Tits & Ass doesn’t make them illegal kiddie porn Web sites or newsgroups.

• Prosecutors have harped on Jon’s alleged pattern of forcing alcoholic drinks on some of his under-aged female guests but, minus evidence of GHB, the trial narrative hasn’t necessarily established this as an obsessive habit of the designer. If anything, several of the witnesses admitted an impressive familiarity with booze for their young ages.

• Likewise, prosecutors have suggested instances in which alleged victims successfully rebuffed passes made by Jon on them – leaving unsaid that once spurned, he left the women alone.

Los Angeles attorney Brad Brunon recalls how, when he was on the defense team early in the McMartin Preschool case, the prosecution’s theory of the crime only unraveled as its components became so far-fetched (the allegedly molested children had taken trips on submarines, helicopters, had witnessed animal sacrifices on church altars, etc.) that they raised the level of skepticism too high to make the D.A.’s charges stick. Creating that kind of informed doubt in jurors, however, can be difficult in a trial culture that automatically assumes a rape accuser is telling the truth.

“If you don’t accept without question the accusation,” Brunon says, “it’s like you’re being misogynistic. You don’t challenge the person, you accept what they say. In many instances [police and prosecutors] find corroboration in the emotional state of the accuser and in ambiguous medical findings. It becomes self-corroboration.”

How much Anand Jon’s jurors accepted his accusers’ testimony, in a case that could send the defendant to prison for life, will be learned sooner than later as deliberations burn through another day.

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