Convicted NY designer: ‘Truth will surface’

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Anand Jon Alexander, fashion designer, reacts to being sentenced to 59 years in prison,at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, in 2009 (AP Photo).

Anand Jon Alexander, fashion designer, reacts to being sentenced to 59 years in prison,at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, in 2009 (AP Photo).

NEW YORK (AP) – Fashion designer Anand Jon Alexander has been portrayed as a predator and monster in coast-to-coast cases accusing him of raping aspiring models he lured to his apartment with the promise of fame.

But here’s how Alexander sees himself: an accomplished artist featured on “America’s Next Top Model” who once worked with the likes of Paris Hilton, a practitioner of yoga, an admitted philanderer – but not a criminal.

“We were all searching for companionship. We were all searching for success,” he said during a jailhouse interview this week with The Associated Press. “The expectations were different. We got so caught up in the whole hype.”

The 38-year-old is lanky, with a wide grin, thick black hair stylishly cut and Buddy Holly glasses tucked into the front of his drab prison jumpsuit. He is relaxed and articulate as he explains why he believes he was a victim and says his conviction and sentence of 59 years to life will be overturned based on new evidence that he says exposes a conspiracy.

“I have 100 percent faith and confidence that I will be freed,” Alexander said shortly after a court appearance in Manhattan, one of several jurisdictions where he’s faced criminal charges.

Alexander was on the brink of fame and fortune, living a fast life of women, celebrities and travel, until allegations surfaced in 2007 that he was preying on wannabe models, some as young as 14, by offering them a window into the industry.

During this era, he said, he wasn’t good at separating business from pleasure. He dated multiple women at once; most he met online. They traveled with him and stayed with him in his apartments in New York and Beverly Hills. Many of these women would later go on to accuse him of forcing them to perform lurid sex acts. Alexander willingly admits he was a lousy, selfish boyfriend who was taking advantage of his newfound fame.

“My culture created the Kama Sutra,” the Kerala, India-born Alexander said, referring to an ancient Hindu text on sexual behavior. “Sex is not something that intimidates me.”

But he said he didn’t force women into anything. While he was working on a deal to take his brand public, he says, the conspiracy was growing slowly around him, made up of angry, bitter women who felt partially responsible for his success and wanted more than he was giving them.

“It was all about me and my brand. I spoiled a lot of relationships,” he said. “Some of the things – the speed of the lifestyle, how much I affected them emotionally – I can understand how some of these people were hurt.”

Los Angeles prosecutors have a different take. Alexander was convicted there in 2008 on more than a dozen counts, including rape and multiple counts of committing a lewd act on a child.

Evidence relied heavily on the testimony of his accusers, whose stories were strikingly similar: They said Alexander baited them online and would eventually take them to his squalid apartment, persuade them to disrobe and later assault them or touch them without consent. He kept a conquest list of his sex acts. Prosecutors played a homemade videotape in which Alexander asked a 17-year-old girl to strip and then assaulted her. The girl said on the tape that she was 18 but testified in court that Alexander told her to lie about her age.

Seven other women were called to tell jurors about alleged assaults in New York and Texas, where the designer was also indicted.

“I was 14. You took my adolescence, my trust, my dream and completely manipulated them for your sexual desires,” one of the women said at his sentencing. The Associated Press does not generally name people who have said they were sexually abused.

“It sickens me that a grown man can do such a thing to a girl,” said the girl, who was 17 when he was sentenced. “A girl who was naive and had the belief that all people were good. And you took that to your advantage.”

Alexander was found not guilty of four felonies and jurors could not reach a verdict on three counts. He was sentenced to 59 years to life. A trial appeal was denied.

What they didn’t have during trial were email exchanges between some of the women that Alexander and his defense say prove they were conspiring. Alexander says he now has messages that show they were recruiting women for the case. The messages discuss false promises, money and how he “pressured them,” which isn’t a crime, his defense said.

Alexander says they hacked into his MySpace page. He says they didn’t have enough to get prosecutors interested, so they trolled for more women online and brainwashed his most recent fling. Her trip to the Beverly Hills police touched off his arrest.

“And then the next day, 20 cops with guns arrested me,” he said.

Alexander also says he has evidence of prosecutorial and juror misconduct. During trial, a male juror contacted his sister, Sanjana. But the judge could not uncover whether any misconduct occurred because district attorney investigators intercepted the juror before he could meet with Sanjana Jon, who was wearing a wire.

After the verdict, Alexander was brought to New York. Prosecutors here said they allowed him to plead guilty earlier this year to one charge of criminal sexual act to spare the victims from testifying at two trials. He was sentenced last week to what amounted to time served. He is still awaiting charges in Dallas and Houston.

Meanwhile, his attorney is working on filing the paperwork with a California judge they hope will overturn his conviction. Alexander’s sister has held fundraisers in India attended by Bollywood stars. Stories in Indian media proclaim his innocence. Dozens of supporters attended his sentencing in New York.

His company is on hold. Alexander waits. “The truth tends to surface,” he said.

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