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.
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.