‘Jon victim of racial discrimination’

Family urges India to bring him back

Sanjana Jon, sister (left), and Sashi Abraham, mother of fashion designer Anand Jon at a press conference in New Delhi on February 18
Sanjana Jon, sister (left), and Sashi Abraham, mother of fashion designer Anand Jon at a press
conference in New Delhi on February 18

NEW DELHI: The family of jailed Indian-American fashion designer Anand Jon has sought the government’s intervention to bring him back to India and maintained that he was a victim of “racial discrimination.” Jon is currently serving a 59 year prison term in California on charges of sexual abuse.

His sister Sanjana and mother Shashi Abraham claimed he was “innocent” and that he has been jailed though the evidence against him did not hold “any ground”.

“I request Sonia Gandhi to look into the case…I am appealing to the government to take steps to bring him back to India,” Sanjana told reporters in New Delhi.

She said the plea bargain deal in New York, which led to 48 of 49 charges against Jon being dropped, would help them fight the earlier charges in a California court.

“It was a strategic decision to plead guilty to one count, which does not involve rape. This will help us get the evidence which was hidden from us for five years, which we can use in our appeal to overturn the California sentence,” Sanjana said.

The Kerala-born designer was arrested in 2007 in California on charges that he preyed upon seven young aspiring models, some as young as 14, and sexually assaulted them.

On February 14, Jon admitted to one count of criminal sexual act in the Manhattan Supreme Court and was sentenced to five years under a plea deal reached with federal prosecutors.

In turn, Manhattan prosecutors dropped 48 out of 49 charges against him. The New York prison time of five years amounts to time served in California, which means no additional years will be added to his 59-year sentence.

Sanjana also said the charges against her brother came up in 2007 soon after news that his company would receive significant funding.
“In 2007, Newsweek put Jon as one of the upcoming people to watch. Soon after this, funding from Wall Street was starting to flow into his company. That is when these charges were levelled against him,” Sanjana said.

The designer’s mother questioned the timing of the allegations, and said the women who accused Jon of assault travelled with him for several years before coming out against him.

“Many of them travelled with us, singing praises of my son. Why didn’t they report about any problems then but spoke up after four to five years? My son is innocent. He is the victim here,” Abraham said.

Jon had launched a fashion line in 1999 and was featured on ‘America’s Next Top Model’ working with celebrities such as socialite Paris Hilton. His designs have been worn by media mogul Oprah Winfrey and singer Janet Jackson.

Adding to this, Sanjana contended that her brother was sentenced to 59 years in jail despite a negative rape kit.

“Such a sentence based on a negative rape kit, a copy of which we have released to the media, is unheard of. Not only that, Jon has also passed a polygraph test, which indicated he was not been deceiving the court in his replies,” she said.

Senior lawyer Majeed Memon, who has also been involved with the case, argued that India had let down Anand Jon.

“Anand was a celebrity and he invited the wrath of others in the fashion industry. This was a calculated, conspired attempt to ruin his career when he was at the very top…he is a symbol of total victimisation and India has let him down,” Memon said.

When asked as to what the family wanted the government to do in the case, he called for a special office in every embassy/consulate to help out Indians abroad in legal distress.

“The government should bring him back to India,” Memon said.

Echoing his opinion, Sanjana appealed to the government to do something. “He has been a victim of racial discrimination, having been called names like ‘curry smelling’ and ‘sand nigger.’ Now, only the Indian government can request for Anand to be sent back to India,” she said.