LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Celebrity fashion designer Anand Jon was convicted on Thursday of raping and sexually assaulting aspiring models as young as 14.
Jon, 34, a rising designer who had dressed socialite Paris Hilton and singer Janet Jackson before his arrest last year, faces possible life imprisonment after a Los Angeles Superior Court jury found him guilty on 16 criminal counts.
The crimes involved lewd acts on a child, rape and sexual battery in assaults between 2001 and 2007 against nine would-be models aged between 14 and 21. He was also convicted of possessing child pornography.
Prosecutors said Jon lured girls and women to Los Angeles with the promise they could work as models and then attacked them.
“He humiliated, degraded and took what he wanted from them. He was a predator who took advantage of the weak people around him. He has no criminal sexual borders. If he didn’t use force, he laced their drinks,” prosecutor Frances Young told the jury.
Jon, whose full name is Anand Jon Alexander, denied the charges. His lawyers said the girls and young women were revenge seekers who had made up their stories or who had “invited what happened,” and that there was little physical evidence.
The designer was acquitted of four charges and the jury could not reach a verdict on three other counts.
Sentencing is scheduled for January 13. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office said Jon was facing a sentence of life in prison, with a 67-year wait before becoming eligible for parole.
Jon has been in custody for a year because he is being investigated on similar charges in New York and Dallas.
The Indian-born designer was profiled on the TV show “America’s Next Top Model” in 2003 and selected by Newsweek magazine as one of the world’s most successful South Asians in 2004.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Xavier Briand