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Jon rape trial begins

Opening statements show contrasting views of the fashion designer.

September 13, 2008|Jack Leonard | Times Staff Writer

He was touted as the next big thing, an up-and-coming clothes designer who landed a prime spot as a guest on a reality fashion television show.

But prosecutors told jurors that designer Anand Jon was in reality a "serial rapist" who exploited his position in the glamour industry to lure young aspiring models to his Beverly Hills apartment, where he lived out his sexual fantasies in a series of assaults.

As his trial began Friday in a Los Angeles courtroom, Jon, 34, sat quietly in a pinstriped Ralph Lauren suit while prosecutors played a homemade videotape they said showed him asking a 17-year-old to strip before sexually abusing her.

In graphic detail, prosecutors told jurors about eight other women -- as young as 14 -- whom Jon is charged with attacking. They said he kept a "brag list" in which he detailed his encounters and sometimes the ages of his "conquests."

"He loves young girls. He loves to humiliate them. He loves to humiliate them through painful sexual acts," Deputy Dist. Atty. Frances Young told jurors in her opening statement.

Jon, whose real name is Anand Jon Alexander, faces 25 felony and misdemeanor charges that include rape and other sexual assault charges. The number has shrunk in recent weeks as prosecutors moved to dismiss more than half of the original 59 counts a grand jury indicted him on last year.

On Friday, moments before opening statements, Superior Court Judge David S. Wesley granted a prosecution request to dismiss four more counts. Prosecutors declined to explain the reason for the dismissals, but defense attorney Leonard Levine said it showed the weakness of the evidence against Jon. "It says volumes about the rest of the case," he said outside the courtroom. "It's totally falling apart."

Inside court, Levine described Jon as the victim of false accusations and overzealous investigators. He said that some of the women, including the girl shown in the video, told Jon they were 18. Some of the others didn't have sex with him or, if they did, did so willingly, Levine said.

Some of the alleged victims, Levine said, continued to contact Jon after prosecutors say they were assaulted.

"Ask yourself: Did they act consistently with someone who was violently sexually assaulted?" Levine said to jurors.

Levine accused investigators of ignoring evidence that suggested Jon was innocent. He said they also badgered women to come forward as victims, including some who had adamantly denied being assaulted.

The "brag list" of sexual conquests, he said, only went up to the year 2000 and did not include the women prosecutors allege were assaulted.

In his opening statement, Levine said that many of the alleged victims didn't need to be lured to meet Jon because they were already drawn to his celebrity status. He argued that the women had consensual sex with him in the hopes he would help them realize their dreams to become models.

When Jon didn't deliver on their dreams, they turned on him, Levine said.

"Everyone wanted to be with Anand," Levine said. "For weeks, for months, for years, everyone said they were fine . . . until they were given a chance to tear the celebrity down."

But prosecutors described Jon as a predator and said the victims will describe a pattern of strikingly similar behavior. In addition to the nine women Jon is charged with attacking, prosecutors plan to call six others who say they were the victims of similar assaults.

"None of them want their 15 minutes," Young said. "But they're all going to come to ask for justice."

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jack.leonard@latimes.com

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