Designer Anand Jon is convicted in sex assaults
A Beverly Hills fashion designer, once touted as a future star of the catwalks, was found guilty Thursday of sexually assaulting seven girls and young women, capping a two-month trial that offered a sordid portrait of the fashion world.
The jury of six men and six women deliberated for seven days before finding Anand Jon Alexander guilty of one count of rape and 15 counts of sexual assault and other charges.
The designer, who goes by the professional name Anand Jon, sat in a light-gray suit and yellow tie and showed little emotion as the court clerk announced the jury’s verdicts to a crowded downtown Los Angeles courtroom. Behind him, his sister gasped and buried her head as she sat with friends and relatives.
Outside court, prosecutors described Jon as a “pedophile masquerading as a fashion designer.”
“This jury today has sent a message that our communities will not tolerate serial rapists and child molesters like Anand Jon,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Frances Young said. “They will be held accountable, and the victims will get justice.”
As friends of Jon’s left the courtroom expressing bewilderment at the verdicts, defense attorney Leonard B. Levine said his client planned to appeal and would seek a new trial.
“He’s disappointed, obviously, but he hasn’t given up hope,” Levine said. “We’re not through by a long shot.”
Prosecutors said Jon, 34, faces a sentence of life in prison and will become eligible for parole after serving 67 years.
Jon, who trained at the prestigious Parsons the New School for Design in New York, starred as a guest designer on the reality television show “America’s Next Top Model.” In December 2006, Newsweek magazine included him in a list of people to watch in 2007.
In March 2007, Beverly Hills police arrested Jon after a woman accused him of rape.
A grand jury later indicted him on 59 counts, but prosecutors eventually dropped more than half of them before trial. On Thursday, they said they did so to focus on the strongest allegations.
During the trial, prosecutors accused Jon of using the promise of modeling jobs to lure girls as young as 14 to a squalid-looking apartment in Beverly Hills, where he acted out sadistic fantasies.
Prosecutors played a homemade videotape in which he asked a 17-year-old girl to strip and then sexually abused her. The girl said on the tape that she was 18 but testified in court that Jon told her to lie about her age.
Others testified that Jon forced them to perform sex acts on him or that he touched them without consent. In addition to the victims in California, prosecutors called seven other women to tell jurors about alleged assaults in New York and Texas, where Jon also has been indicted.
But Jon’s supporters said they believed his high-powered defense team had presented jurors with a compelling case for his innocence.
Confronting some of the women with cellphone and e-mail records, the attorneys sought to point up inconsistencies in their accounts and show that they had contact with Jon after the alleged assaults.
The lawyers told jurors that the women were liars, with some of them angry at the way Jon had treated them and others hoping to profit financially. Jon’s supporters said the accusers’ testimony did not seem credible.
“I can’t believe that I was in the same courtroom” as the jury, said Richard Bernard, Jon’s brother-in-law.
Jon did not testify in the case.
In their closing arguments, prosecutors conceded that the Beverly Hills police investigation was “sloppy” and that some of the accusers had acted recklessly in trusting Jon.
But on Thursday, they also expressed gratitude to the women who testified in the case.
Jon, prosecutors said, was the one who initiated contact with many of the women after the alleged assaults as part of a strategy to stop them from reporting him to authorities.
“It was his way to keep them silent,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Mara McIlvain.
In addition to the guilty verdicts, the jury acquitted Jon of four counts and deadlocked on three others. Superior Court Judge David S. Wesley is scheduled to sentence Jon on Jan. 13.