INSIDE STORY: The Celebrity Designer Convicted of Rape
Once the dresser of Oprah Winfrey and Paula Abdul, Anand Jon Alexander sexually preyed on aspiring models
Five years ago, Natalie Pack was living the life she had dreamed of since she was a little girl. The tall, blue-eyed brunette was an accomplished dancer traveling the world as a professional model, taking college classes and engaged to marry.
But then she met Anand Jon Alexander, the celebrity fashion designer known as Anand Jon, and the life she knew was destroyed. Alexander, she alleges, raped her in 2004, leaving her “lifeless and soulless.”
“The mental and emotional scars I’m left with are permanent,” Pack, 31, told a judge in a victim’s impact statement. “I don’t have much hope that I will ever get better.”
Alexander, 34, was convicted in November of last year on 23 counts of sexually assaulting several girls and young women. On Aug. 31, he was sentenced to 59 years to life and won’t be eligible for parole until he serves at least 85 percent of his sentence – in 2075.
It was an epic fall for the South Indian-born designer who moved to the United States and studied fashion at the Parsons School in New York, where his intricately beaded designs started selling at top department stores and began appearing on celebrities as varied as Oprah Winfrey, Janet Jackson, Paris Hilton, Lawrence Fishburne and Paula Abdul. In 2002, he was given a People’s Choice award and the next year was featured on three episodes of America’s Top Model.
But that heady world suddenly came crashing to the ground in March 2007, when Beverly Hills police raided his apartment in response to a minor’s accusation of sexual assault.
‘Crafty and Brazen’
According to the district attorney, Alexander would typically troll social networking Web sites for aspiring models – the younger the better – and using celebrity connections as bait, would lure them to his Beverly Hills apartment, which he claimed was his studio. It was there, according to testimony from his victims at his trial last year, where he would almost immediately begin fondling them and then rape them.
“I have never had a case that reaches the realm of this one,” Mara McIlvain, one of the two Deputy District Attorneys who prosecuted the case, tells PEOPLE. “We are dealing is a smart, crafty man, who had a plan that he executed and that worked for him for so long. He kept getting away with it, and he got more brazen as time went on.”
As part of their investigation, police discovered on Alexander’s computer what prosecutors contend was a “conquest list” of women that he assaulted. Next to their name would be noted the sexual act committed against them.
“He kept a brag list in the same way that people keep sports statistics,” said Frances Young, another Deputy District Attorney on the case. “There were so many people that he did this to that he had to write it down just to remember, and also to have the sexual satisfaction of reliving the experience.”
Alexander would maintain that it was more of a fantasy list. He claimed his innocence throughout the trial, and his legal team contended that the women in the case were conspiring against him to get his money and that the sex was either consensual or didn’t happen. When his lawyers failed to avoid conviction or have it overturned on appeal, Alexander and his family fired them and the defendant represented himself during sentencing. A representative for Alexander, who is facing extradition in New York and Texas for separate cases in those states, could not be reached for comment.
Private Lives Exposed
One of the challenges in prosecuting Alexander was the long digital trail left by the victims in the form of email, texts and postings on social networking sites.
“These girls who testified had their entire private lives on the Internet combed by defense attorneys that had unlimited resources,” explains Young. “Every possible text, email or picture that could embarrass them was used against them in cross-examination. It was a humiliating experience for them, and if they could do it over again they would exercise much great discretion on what they believed to be private communications.”
Adds McIlvaine, “Just because you hit ‘delete’ doesn’t mean it goes away. Any lawyer with a subpoena can still get it, and young people have to understand that.”
Natalie Pack didn’t have to relive her experience during the trial; because prosecutors had sufficient evidence to convict Alexander, they chose not to try him on the charges for which he was indicted regarding Pack. She has begun to pick up the pieces of her life. While her engagement broke off and she has yet to begin dating again, Pack is making plans to go back to school to become a yoga instructor. Still, she says, “the depression and anxiety are sometimes too much to bear.”
At least now, with Alexander’s conviction, the healing process can begin.
“We are very proud of Natalie for coming for coming forward,” says her attorney, Gloria Allred. “She decided to sacrifice her privacy in order to send the message to other women that they had a right to seek justice, and she believes that justice has prevailed.”