He's a Sexagenarian Love God.
A 67-year-old Westchester cookbook author charged with fondling au pairs worked his mojo to seduce the young twentysomethings into joining him for consensual sexual encounters, his lawyers said.
Defense attorneys for Joseph Yannai admitted to the jury on the first day of trial that the author was unabashedly on the make when the young women arrived from overseas with promises of a good job in America.
"He hit on every young woman who came into his house," defense attorney Heidi Cesare told the panel today in Brooklyn federal court. "He only hired attractive young women."
But Yannai never coerced the women into having sex, the defense attorney insisted.
"Sometimes he insulted them when they refused him, but he never forced anyone to do anything," she said.
Federal prosecutors disagreed, painting a less than attractive portrait of the bald free love swinger - who hired young women who were often recent high school graduates from countries such as Hungary, Mexico, and Denmark.
"He preyed on their hopefulness - he preyed on their naivete," Audrey Stone, Second Deputy Westchester County District Attorney told the jury. "He used fear - psychological coercion" and "he continually sexually abused those who stayed with him."
The young women - mostly between the ages of 18-22 - were hired to serve as editorial assistants for Yannai's cookbook writing activities and to assist with household chores between 2003-2009.
During their employment at the $800,000 Pound Ridge home Yannai shares with his wife, he required the young women to wear scanty clothing, fore-go wearing bras, pressured them to have sex, and groped their breasts and buttocks, prosecutors say.
Yannai faces charges of luring the women from abroad to sexually abuse them and forced labor violations - as well as immigration charges - for allegedly instructing the women to lie about the reasons for their visit to the US.
His defense attorneys conceded that Yannai's lifestyle as a "dirty old man" who relished engaging in "adulterous...and three-way sexual encounters" with the young women - behind his wife's back - would disgust many jurors and the general public.
But Cesare argued that such repugnance should not sway the jury's task of assessing whether Yannai committed federal crimes.
"This is a court of law - this is not a court of moral opinion," Cesare argued to the panel. "It is not against the law to be immoral in your sexual relations."
By Mitchel Maddux