“I want more. I want harder evidence. I want that tampon.” So said Deputy District Attorney Frances Young during her closing rebuttal that finally brought the criminal trial against fashion designer Anand Jon Alexander to a close, two months after it began. The sanitary device in question belonged to a menstruating Jessie B, who claimed Jon ripped it out of her before raping her. It was never recovered by the police, leaving defense attorneys to wonder aloud what tales it allegedly would have told.
Young’s closing began promisingly enough on Halloween, with the prosecutor, dressed in black, rising angrily from her chair to brand the defense’s closing argument — delivered by no fewer than three attorneys — as little more than a misogynistic fantasy imagined by four male lawyers. (A fifth, female defense attorney, Elizabeth Roos, attends court but never participated in witness examinations.)
According to Young, Jon’s defense relied upon a traditional blame-the-rape-victim tactic of suggesting that the teenagers and young women who visited the designer’s Manhattan and Beverly Hills studios essentially deserved the sexual assaults they accuse Jon of committing.
The problem for the prosecution is that there seems to be much blame — or, at least, many questions — to spread upon Jon’s nine accusers. As the trial progressed, the defense, relying on an apparent gold mine of evidence dug out by its investigators, advanced several recurring themes about the women Jon is accused of raping, buggering, fingering or illegally videotaping.
The first is that several of them sent him e-mails containing flirtatious comments and suggestive photographs of themselves — some showing the girls completely naked or semi-nude. Second, it became clear that a number of the alleged victims did not flee Jon’s New York and L.A. lairs after they were supposedly assaulted on his flattened air mattress, and that some remained in friendly contact with him long after the traumatic events in question.
Finally, throughout testimony, there was the suggestion that some of the girls had been drugged, presumably with a date-rape potion such as GHB. However, no traces of the drug were found in Jon’s apartment or, at least, nothing tested positive for GHB. Prosecutor Young wanted more, she wanted harder evidence — didn’t we all? — including GHB and even that tampon. But wasn’t it the D.A.’s office that should’ve provided it?
Much of Young’s rebuttal uneasily rested upon generalities: All the victims, she said, could be excused inconsistencies in their testimonies because they were teenagers, they were unsophisticated kids from suburbs and the heartland, or they had indifferent parents.
“I would not bring them home to meet my parents if I were a guy,” she said of alleged victim Britny O and background witness Janice Z. It was an attempt to concede that some of the victims were a little “reckless” in their approach to strangers, but this statement had the effect of undermining the credibility of other victims and witnesses. (Then again, one of the women claimed she knew she’d been slipped GHB because she used the drug recreationally and was familiar with its effects.)
Young did, however, attempt to rehabilitate her victim-witnesses after the battering they’d received during the defense’s closing. (See Oct. 30 blog “Seduction or Rape?”) She pointed out that even though Jon lived in New York and L.A., home to two of the biggest trout farms for modeling talent, he chose to trawl the Internet for girls from the sticks to offer them work wearing his jeans and tops. And she claimed that the sheer similarity of testimony by the victims showed a clear pattern of Jon inflicting painful, humiliating sex upon the girls.
Yet by the conclusion of the trial the defense had shown that many of the young women had been in communication with one another prior to grand jury testimony, and some of their e-mail chatter suggests an organized effort to present uniform stories. (The defense even introduced evidence that at least one of the victims had been able to hack into Jon’s e-mail account.)
In the end, the e-mail chatter that repeated such details as Jon’s body odor or the chaotic landscape of his apartments might just as easily be explained as scripted testimony rather than corroborative minutiae.
Despite the doubts raised about the victims by Jon’s defense, his lawyers have not rolled this trial up. They spent much time demolishing Holly G and her hapless, contradictory testimony (she insisted she once flew “200,000 miles” from New York to L.A., and her claim to have had a dead cell phone battery following her alleged rape was contradicted by her phone bill). But Jon is not charged here with raping Holly, who was only summoned as a background witness. Now it’s up to the jury to decide on the 23 counts that could land Jon in prison for the rest of his life.