Anand Jon's Post-Verdict Twilight Zone
The court afterlife of the Anand Jon trial -- a post-verdict twilight filled with sentencing hearings and new trial motions -- has now stretched out longer than the trial itself. That proceeding ran a mere two months before the Beverly Hills fashion designer was convicted of one count of rape and 15 charges of sexual assault. At that time, co-prosecutor Frances Young described Jon as "a 34-year-old pedophile masquerading as a fashion designer." Little did Young guess, back then, that a rogue juror was setting in motion events that would, at the very least, postpone Jon's sentencing for months and, at worst, could result in a new trial to be prosecuted not by the D.A.'s office but by the state Attorney General's. L'affaire Jon has become a half-year telenovela masquerading as a trial.
Briefly, a juror named Alvin Dymally began contacting Anand Jon's sister, Sanjana, shortly before the trial's conclusion in November. Dymally's outreach began, like many a high school melodrama, with a note passed in a cafeteria. Except this cafeteria was located in the Criminal Courts Building and Dymally was way out of line contacting anyone connected with either side of the trial. On the note was a phone number for Sanjana to call which she did, although nothing apparently resulted from the contact. Dymally, however, as Juror 12, soon thereafter proved extremely balky during deliberations and Judge David Wesley had to question in court, separately, Dymally and his fellow jurors who claimed he was refusing to discuss the case with them. For a time it had seemed a very real possibility that Dymally would be booted off the panel, though Wesley allowed him to remain on it.
These scenarios remain theories because District Attorney's investigators intercepted and questioned Dymally before he could enter the Starbucks -- and apparently scared him off. These investigators, Jon's lawyers claim, had been invited to observe the Starbucks meeting but ended up scuttling it. The defense claims the D.A.'s office is now so tainted by this incident that it must recuse itself from any new trial that may eventually be granted. Such a new proceeding, the defense hopes, would be prosecuted by Attorney General Jerry Brown's office.
However, on January 6, Dymally contacted Sanjana again to tell her he had news about the verdict. She arranged to meet him the following day at a Starbucks. This time she alerted her brother's lawyers, who alerted the judge and prosecutors. On January 7 the defense team, with Judge Wesley's assent, had Sanjana wired to secretly record her conversation with Dymally. There are three theories about Dymally's intentions: 1) he had information about the jurors' deliberations that may have helped Jon get a new trial; 2) he was attracted to Sanjana and wanted to date her; 3) he planned to somehow blackmail Sanjana.
Last Friday's recusal hearing largely resembled the last one, with a couple of D.A. investigators reconstructing their ham-fisted interception. They also explained that they had no faith in the defense's plan to record Dymally nor, for that matter, could they rule out the possibility that the entire meeting was a complete con -- a pre-scripted charade between Dymally and Sanjana. Or, perhaps, it was an attempt by Sanjana to trick the wayward juror into inadvertently expressing agreement with her about some aspect of the trial that could be beneficial to the defense's push for a new trial.
Throughout his direct examination of investigators Chandera Parker and Ronald Valdivia, defense attorney Ronald Richards strongly implied the D.A.'s office was never serious about learning anything from Dymally -- that the investigators were merely using the interview as a ruse to scare him off from giving Jon's sister some important piece of information.
Richards finished with his witnesses, which included such top D.A. officials as Richard Doyle and Curtis Hazell. Then Frances Young called Sanjana to the witness stand to explain why she kept Dymally's early communications to herself.
"I was afraid," Sanjana said. "This man held our lives in his hands." She also said she only called Dymally on pay telephones, so that he would not know her cell phone number. As Sanjana's new lawyer, the veteran attorney Harlan Braun, helplessly looked on, Young got Sanjana to explain how this worked, whereupon Jon's sister replied that when she would sometimes spot a pay phone when driving with her husband, Richard, and ask him to pull over to let her make a call.
Did she, Young asked, ever discuss Dymally with her husband prior to January 6? Sanjana replied that she hadn't, but it's difficult to imagine anyone not having to explain why she would not be using a cell phone to place a call. One reason comes to mind -- her husband, Richard Bernard, was a working member of the defense team, having maintained its records and organized its digital archives during the trial. As such, he might have had an obligation to disclose to the court his knowledge about Juror No. 12.
Far more discomfiting questions, however, would soon be asked Sanjana -- and Richard. For that morning Judge Wesley announced his intention to look into the matter of a flyer attacking Anand Jon's accusers. This was no ordinary handbill, however, but a single-page printout entitled "Prostitutes for the Prosecution" that featured more than a dozen nude or semi-nude photos of the young women who'd testified against Jon during his trial. The document identified the women by name and age -- many of them were under 18 years old at the time of the photographs, which appeared on social networking sites and other online locales.
Who assembled the flyer? Young asked, to which Sanjana quietly replied the name of her friend and house guest, Lauren Boyette. After Sanjana stepped down, co-prosecutor Mara McIlvain called Richard Bernard to the stand. A rather one-way colloquy followed, with Bernard pleading the Fifth Amendment to most of McIlvain's questions. Bernard's predicament was obvious since, as the digital custodian of the defense's records, his computers could have provided a virtual library for anyone wishing to access information about Jon's accusers -- including those salacious photographs.
Still, Boyette's appearance was even briefer. Summoned from the court corridor where she'd been waiting, the young model was told by Judge Wesley that he had assigned a temporary lawyer for her and she was to cease any dissemination of witness information she may have in her possession. Wesley made it clear Boyette could be in trouble for the flyer and he also angrily told the four defense attorneys present how damaging these kind of shenanigans were to the defense's credibility.
He needn't have bothered. Ronald Richards and Leonard Levine looked as though they were about to explode in frustration. They had come to court that morning to press home what seemed to be a credible motion for recusal of the entire District Attorney's office, but their case had gotten sidetracked by stories of notes passed in a cafeteria and the circulation of the kind of gossipy flyers that might be excused when secretly stuffed into high school lockers -- but which were not tarnishing the defense by association.