Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Celeb Fashion Designer Ads Sexual Assault to Resume

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A celebrity fashion designer accused of luring young women and girls with promises of modeling work and then raping or sexually assaulting them was charged on Wednesday with attacks on four more victims.

Anand Jon, who has appeared on the popular television show "America's Next Top Model," is now charged with 32 counts involving sexual assaults on 12 victims, all women or girls from 14 to 23 years old with ties to the fashion industry.

"It's violent. It's sexual offenses against younger female victims," Deputy District Attorney Mara McIlvain told the court at Jon's arraignment in Beverly Hills. "It's a pattern of conduct that is like a serial sex offender."

The 33-year-old Indian-born designer, touted by Newsweek magazine as a person to watch in 2007, pleaded innocent to all of the charges.

His attorney has said the sex was consensual and that the women falsely accused Jon because he did not make them famous.

Superior Court Judge Eldon Fox ordered Jon, who is free on $1.3 million (658,000 pounds) bail, back to court on June 12.

The judge said Jon could resume work as a fashion designer but must not be alone with a woman under the age of 30. Models under that age must sign documents swearing they were never alone with him.

Fox rejected a request by prosecutors to raise Jon's bail in light of the additional charges. If convicted, Jon faces life in prison.

A Los Angeles District Attorney's spokeswoman said that in addition to the dozen victims named in the criminal complaint, six other women had come forward to say they were attacked by the designer and were being interviewed by prosecutors.

"They were all allegedly lured as models with promises or careers in modeling or modeling contracts and then sexually assaulted," spokeswoman Jane Robison said.

Robison said Jon was also being investigated by authorities in Texas and New York.

The charges include forcible rape, sexual battery, sexual battery by restraint, sexual penetration by a foreign object, sodomy by use of force, forcible oral copulation, attempted forcible oral copulation, false imprisonment by violence, assault with the intent to commit a felony, lewd act on a child, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and sexual exploitation of a child.

Prosecutors say the women and girls were attacked between November 2002 and March of this year and that Jon was first investigated after one of the alleged victims contacted authorities.

He was arrested at his home in Beverly Hills in March.

According to a December profile of Jon in Newsweek, the designer has dressed such celebrities as Paris Hilton and Janet Jackson, plans to launch a new line of jeans and is developing a reality TV show about his life.

Newsweek was on point. He needs to be watched! Period!

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