Two competing narratives are taking shape in the Anand Jon's sexual assault trial.
At its core, the trial of celebrity fashion designer Anand Jon Alexander, charged with 32 counts of rape and sexual assaults on 12 women and children in California, will boil down to two competing narratives.
In the other, peddled by his attorney Ronald Richards, Jon is a victim of the "thwarted expectations" of devious women who sought to trade sexual favors for career advancement and then turned on him when they didn't get the breaks they hoped for.
"You can't fault a man if women throw themselves at him," Richards says.
Over the years, Jon has artfully cultivated a public persona of a highly connected designer to the stars, including socialite Paris Hilton and actress Michelle Rodriguez, even though many industry insiders complain that he is a man of modest talents and no real accomplishments. He was very visible in the fashion party scene, often attracting a bevy of young models, who were draped around his arms and waist.
There is little dispute that Jon, currently free on $1.3 million bond and staying with his mother and sister in New York, slept with several of his models. In past interviews he has often boasted how women throwing themselves at him is an appealing perk of his job. The core issue at trial will be whether the sex was always consensual, starting with the case that triggered his precipitous fall from grace on March 6 when he was arrested on a charge of rape of a 19-year-old lingerie model with whom he had corresponded for months via the Internet.
She arrived at Jon's apartment in Beverly Hills late night of March 4 and joined him in his bedroom, where, according to the police report, he first kissed her, then forced her into oral sex and intercourse.
Here the narrative is vigorously challenged by the defense. According to the police report, the woman asked Jon first to stop and then to "at least use a condom," which he hrefused. The next afternoon, the woman ate lunch with two of Jon's assistants before taking her charges to a rape center and then the Beverly Hills cops.
Defense attorney Richard ridicules her credibility. "Why would she change into pajamas" or not storm out of the bedroom? "Why didn't she punch him in the face?" Richards told the New York Times, noting: "My client is 5-foot-4 and 130 pounds. He's a thin Gandhi-type guy. He can't overpower anybody. And girl would kick his butt. It's not even a close call. That's what's so silly about this."
Richards also argues that several of Jon's accusers, many of whom stepped forward only after his arrest, continued to maintain contact with him after their alleged assaults to be in his shows.
Police contend they found a striking pattern in the descriptions of each of the 11 other women who have accused Jon of sexual assault, including a 15-year-old who claimed she was victimized on March 3, the day before the lingerie model.
"This was a revolving door," says Jane Robinson, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles District Attorney's office. "The m.o. is similar. He allegedly met them over the Internet, promised to pay for a trip out here or sent them a plane ticket. And once they got out here, he used his position in the fashion industry to take advantage of them. And he allegedly told them if they said they were not comfortable: 'Get used to it. This is what happens in the industry.' "
In addition to the 12 women, California authorities say that at least 6 additional sexual assault claims against Jon are still under investigation in their jurisdiction as well as several others in New York and Texas. Additional charges are widely expected.
In one incident recounted by the New York Times, a 19-year-old woman in Dallas, Texas, was sought out by Jon through her profile on MySpace. Her father met Jon at the airport and actually grilled him on his concerns for his daughter's safety, but Jon assured him: "I treasure the feminine being. I got all this spirituality from my grandmother and my mom."
At its core Jon's defense is that the sex he had with any of his accusers (which is not all necessarily acknowledged by his attorney) was always consensual. But that argument runs up against a wall in the charges involving minors, because under California law minors cannot give consent and several of his accusers are below 18. Richards has suggested these women misrepresented their ages to Jon. While that may well be a mitigating factor, it is not a legal defense, because under the law even if a victim consented, misrepresented her age or Jon genuinely believed she was over the age of 18, he would still have committed statutory rape if he engaged in a sexual act with a minor.