LA's designer to the stars faces 59 counts of sexual assault

Click to follow

Anand Jon, the Indian-born would-be celebrity fashion designer accused of raping models as young as 15, returns to court this week facing even more charges – and the prospect of a flurry of civil cases – than when he was first arrested seven months ago.

Prosecutors now say they have found 20 girls and young women to testify that Jon – who has dressed the likes of Paris Hilton and Mary J Blige – lured them to Los Angeles with the promise of work and the chance to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, only to demand sexual favours from them.

One of the women, 29-year-old Natalie Pack from Idaho, filed a lawsuit against Jon last week claiming that she suffered emotional trauma after the assault that she alleges took place in 2004 and saying that she has been unable to work since.

When Jon was first arrested in March, based on the testimony of just one woman, he was granted bail at $1.3m (£635,000). Now, though, with more and more women coming forward – first eight, then 12, then 18, and now 20 – bail has been denied. A full list of the 59 counts against him – including rape, battery and committing a lewd act on a child – will be read out at an arraignment hearing Thursday.

If convicted on even a fraction of these charges, Jon – full name Anand Jon Alexander – faces the prospect of life imprisonment. Jon has insisted he is innocent and enjoys the support of his family – particularly his sister, fellow designer Sanjana Abraham – who have mounted a legal defence fund. Jon's line of defence has varied somewhat, with some of the lawyers who have represented him arguing that the women now accusing him threw themselves at him willingly.

His first lawyer, Ronald Richards, described him as a "thin Gandhi-type guy" who was so light and short – 130lb and 5ft 4 in – that he couldn't overpower anybody, not even a 15-year-old girl. His current lawyer, Anthony Brooklier, claims the accusations are a conspiracy, perpetrated by a group of women who have communicated with each other to make sure they tell the same story. His sister, meanwhile, maintains he didn't have any sexual contact with his models at all. "He was so busy with his work that he didn't have time to do any of these things," she said a few months ago.

Less than a year ago, Newsweek magazine confidently predicted that Jon was on the brink of superstardom. His world unravelled after a 19-year-old lingerie model from Seattle went to a rape crisis centre in early March alleging that he had lured her to Los Angeles following a months-long correspondence over the internet and forced her to have sex in his apartment in Beverly Hills. Two more accusers came forward in the next few days, prompting police to launch a full-scale investigation. When the story hit the papers, it prompted yet more women to come forward.

Among Jon's accusers is his former publicist, Chris Hulbert, who says Jon even came on to his 19-year-old daughter. "He put his hand around her neck and said 'You have a very comfortable neck, would you like to have sex with me?'," he told The New York Post.