Anand Jon Trial: A Postscript
|Anand Jon: The Long Goodbye?|
Jon, 35, was acting as his own attorney yesterday, and, despite the inevitable fumbling of an absolute beginner, managed at times to strike a compelling figure who believed he had been terribly wronged by the judicial system. But there were moments when he lashed out at the would-be young models who were drawn to him for professional advancement, as though daring them to challenge his high moral position. If Jon was issuing an invitation, it was answered around 4:30 p.m., when the door to the jury room opened and the jury box filled with a dozen or so of his accusers, young women who were incongruously dressed for a summer party, but were here to read victim's statements.
Only three read their statements, and all three struggled through tears to complete their speeches that were aimed directly at Jon. "I was 14," said Autumn A. "You took my adolescence, my trust, my dream and completely manipulated them for your sexual desires." Throughout the three statements, Jon looked directly at his accusers and showed no emotion. Likewise, Jon betrayed no expression when Wesley handed him his sentence, which almost completely matched the prosecution's sentencing request, except that the judge allowed two misdemeanors to be satisfied with the time Jon has already spent in jail. Short of the far-fetched possibility that he receives a pardon, Jon's only hope of escaping life in prison is to win a new trial on an appeal that is sure to follow. Wesley's body language and demeanor suggested that the only reason he was giving Jon the run of the courtroom during yesterday's marathon hearing was to make the success of such an appeal as unlikely as possible. One of his last acts was to have Jon remanded immediately to the state Department of Corrections.
Jon was found guilty last November of 16 counts of sexual assault and at the time his lawyers said an appeal was a given. But something far more promising emerged after Jon's conviction - irrefutable proof that one of the jurors, Alvin Dymally, had reached out and contacted Jon's sister, Sanjana Alexander, before jury deliberations had begun. As details of Dymally's ambiguous overtures to Alexander unfolded in the months that followed, along with the news of how the District Attorney's office had sabotaged a court-permitted tape-recorded meeting between Alexander and Dymally, it did appear as though the defense had a strong case to make about juror misconduct.
And so Jon's trial was followed by a remarkable courtroom afterlife that lasted until yesterday. During this time his lawyers first sought to have the entire case taken out of the hands of the D.A.'s office and placed with the state attorney general. When that failed, they forcefully fought for a new trial, based on Dymally's misconduct. Although clearly upset by Dymally's rogue initiatives, and by the D.A.'s handling of Dymally, Judge Wesley denied a new trial and all Sanjana and Dymally got out of the proceedings were two contempt citations that will be heard later this month.
On July 10, in one last gamble, Jon discharged his lawyers to act pro se, and again asked for a new trial based on what he called new evidence - the principle reason for a judge to set aside a verdict in favor of a second trial. In a day of odd twists, Jon had a 2008 article of mine about the trial entered as an evidence exhibit. He said the piece had helped torpedo his case because, he claimed, Dymally had admitted reading it against Wesley jury instructions to avoid that issue of the L.A. Weekly. Throughout the morning Jon returned again and again to the feature as "lethal" and "prejudicial" to his defense, even though several of my trial reports were later reposted on a Web site set up in Jon's support. For a while, then, there was a theoretical possibility that the Weekly's allegedly prejudicial piece could have sprung Jon from his verdict and into a new trial.It didn't happen. At the end of the long day, reporters and the crews from 20/20 and a documentary about the case followed co-prosecutors Frances Young and Mara McIlvain, both from the D.A.'s sex crimes division, up to the Criminal Courts Building's 18th floor for a late news conference. Both women still rose to denounce Jon and his crimes, but now, after the trial eight-month postscript, they looked fatigued and ready to put the case as far behind them as possible. After only a few minutes the questions stopped, as though even the trial media had had enough. There wasn't, after all, anything left to say.