LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Lawyers for a fashion designer convicted of multiple sex charges are seeking a new trial, alleging the prosecution sabotaged their undercover operation to try to catch a juror in an act of misconduct.
Attorneys for designer Anand Jon Alexander also asked on Wednesday that prosecutors be removed from the case because of bias.
"They acted to prevent the defense from obtaining evidence that would have resulted in a new trial," defense attorney Leonard Levine said outside court. "It's as if they destroyed DNA evidence."
The events that threw the verdicts into question began in November when jurors were deliberating the case against Alexander, an Indian-born fashion designer with a cast of celebrity clients. He had been featured on "America's Top Model."
His sister, Sanjana, told lawyers after the trial ended she had been approached by a juror who handed her a note with his phone number and said to call him. She said she was told by the man that she should "tell your brother everything is going to be OK. We know he is innocent. We know we can help. We need to meet with you alone."
Levine said she spoke to the juror twice but no meeting was arranged. Alexander was found guilty of 14 felonies including forcible rape and two misdemeanors. His seven victims ranged in age from 14 to 21. He was accused of luring aspiring models, then sexually assaulting them.
After the trial, Levine said Sanjana revealed the jury contacts and it was brought to the judge's attention. Two months after the verdict, Superior Court Judge David Wesley approved a meeting between the juror and Sanjana, who would be wired. He said prosecutors could participate.
District attorney investigators admitted during Wednesday's hearing that they intercepted the suspect juror on his way to the court-approved meeting in January and informed the juror he was the subject of a possible jury tampering investigation.
As a result, transcripts cited in court by Levine showed that the juror said he was "freaked out" and decided not to go to the meeting. He also refused to tell the prosecution investigators anything.
Wesley sharply questioned investigators about their behavior Wednesday, suggesting if the defense had interfered with a prosecution sting, the defense operatives would have been arrested.
Brian Bennett, the supervising investigator on the case for the Los Angeles district attorney's office, testified it was his decision to intercept the juror on his way to the meeting because he knew the defense would place a wire on Sanjana and record the meeting at a coffee shop.
At one point he suggested that the juror and Sanjana might have been "in cahoots." But he acknowledged they never found out because the meeting was aborted.
The hearing was recessed until April 17. District attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons declined comment.
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