Indian American community seems excited as prosecution drops 20 charges against young celebrity fashion designer Anand John Alexander. He still faces 29 more counts of sexual assault of aspiring models.
Jury selection is to start anytime now in the controversial trial. The Indian American community would like to believe it is a case of racism, springing from sheer jealousy of and malice against an astonishingly successful "other."
The 34-year-old Anand Jon is accused of sexually assaulting young girls and women he allegedly lured to Los Angeles to model for him.
The stricken charges involved 10 of the 20 alleged victims, aged 14-26.
Prosecutors did not give a reason for their decision, saying only that they will not immediately pursue the stricken charges. They did not dismiss the charges altogether, though, so they will have the option of pursuing them at a later date.
Among the 29 charges Alexander still faces are forcible rape, sexual battery by restraint, and lewd acts upon a child.
The Los Angeles County district attorney's office said their case against Alexander remains strong.
Alexander faces the possibility of 122 years to life in state prison if convicted on all the remaining counts.
Beverly Hills police first began investigating Alexander in March 2007 after a woman reported she had been sexually assaulted by Alexander at his Beverly Hills apartment.
Alexander claims on his website that he has won numerous fashion awards, including a 2002 People's Choice award for "Best New Designer."
The Parsons-trained designer launched his first line at New York Fashion Week in 1999 and was featured on "America's Next Top Model" in 2003.
He made a name for himself by designing clothes for such celebrities as Paris Hilton and Mary J. Blige, but also enjoys a reputation as a hard-partier.
A semen-stained comforter, a tampon and a camera, were some of the items listed on a Beverly Hills Police Department search warrant when officers raided fashion designer Anand Jon's pad in March, 2007. Later that year Jon was charged with a list of offenses more often associated with spring break at Lake Havasu than evenings on staid North Palm Drive: forcible rape, lewd acts upon a child, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, sexual battery by restraint and attempted forcible oral copulation, wrote a US blogger.
And who are his accusers? Pretty girls with big dreams, they used the Internet to tap into a world that promised wealth and fame. Lindsay, a 17-year-old college student from Minnesota. Nicole, a 21-year-old model from Indiana. Jennifer, a shy 18-year-old from the San Fernando Valley.
Some say they were as young as 14 or 15 when it happened and that he gave them alcohol. Several say they were raped repeatedly and in more than one city. Apparently the incidents took place between 2001 and 2007. The charges made headlines. Whatever the outcome of his trial in Los Angeles, Jon will face still more charges in New York and Texas.
Jon himself maintains that he is innocent. "Every single thing in there," he says of his indictment, "I can prove is a lie."
In many of the cases against him, small-town values will collide with big-city realities, especially in the slippery sphere of cyberspace. Meet a girl, diss a guy, seek your fortune on the World Wide Web, and it can have devastating consequences. With a few keyboard strokes Jon found women, ping-ing them through MySpace or on sites such as onemodelplace.com and starsearch.com. Some entered his circle, and when their quest for renown ended, they reached back through the Web to find other former models who felt aggrieved or said they had sex with him, writes Sharon Waxman, a US journalist.
Before the 34-year-old fashion designer was arrested, he had been about to launch a line of hand-stitched jeans and whimsical tops with motifs from his native India. Jon is shackled hand and foot, even to leave his cell when his family visits. He cannot see the sky, loses track of time, and sleeps with bugs and rats. He meditates, he reads the Zohar, the book of Kabbalah mysticism, and he obsessively studies legal documents, scrawling notes in the margins.
Marla Maples, the sometime actress and ex-wife of Donald Trump, is a close friend of Anand Jon. She calls him "one of the most inspiring people I've ever met." The women blaming him, Maples told me, are "not comfortable in their own skin," says Waxman.
She notes that the testimony against Jon is "damning" in some places, but also extremely weak in other instances. "Anand Jon does not appear to be a nice guy,"
she says. But "it is not quite clear to me that what Jon has done, in every case, was rape."
The Indian community in US is crying foul. No 911 calls. Nobody screaming for help. No one ran the three blocks to the Police Department. It is all a post-9/11 witch hunt, they charge.
Some testimony seems to raise questions about how strongly
some of the young women resisted and whether they are lying.
A sampling, from the testimony of 16-year-old Katie W. from Alabama
Did he stop?A:
No.... It's like he wasn't even there, he wasn't even listening or talking back. I was just there.... I don't remember which came first, but he forced himself in my mouth, and I was still saying 'No,' and gagging. I thought I was gonna throw up. It was disgusting. He is disgusting.
But she did not report it for more than a year, until after Jon was arrested in March 2007, when a lingerie model named Jessie from Lake Stevens, Washington, went to the police and became the first to accuse him of rape.
Katie's is one of the testimonies being dropped now.
Incidentally in a video of Katie W. "found among Jon's effects, she cavorts for him naked, with no sense of shame or regret," screams an Indian reporter.
Why didn't so many of the girls go to the police immediately?
"I honestly wasn't brave enough," says Jennifer M from the San Fernando Valley.
William Petrillo of Garden City, Jon's New York attorney, said the prosecutor's choice to dismiss some charges confirms what he has been saying all along: that many of the cases against his client are weak.
He said he hopes the development will raise doubts for his own case. The charges that were dismissed in California involve four of the same women who accused Jon in New York, Petrillo said.
After some charges were dropped last week, Jon's attorneys, Leonard Levine and Donald Marks, presented motions to bar speculative witness testimony regarding possible drug-usage at Jon's home, and to have the two warrants suppressed. The second request was made on the grounds that one cop's labeling of Jon as a "sexual predator" on the initial warrant had allowed two police visits to Jon's condo to become scavenger hunts in which officers took away the designer's computers. Judge David S. Wesley rejected the motions, claiming that even without Jon's predator tag, an alleged victim's description of the comforter, tampon and other items permitted a comprehensive search of Jon's home.
Jon appeared in court wearing a dark chalk-striped suit, his hair pulled into a short ponytail. More pretrial motions will be filed next week. Jury selection is expected to be completed by September 9, with opening statements scheduled three days later, followed by the first prosecution witness' testimony September 15.