Man headed to trial for alleged sex assault in East Village

SAN DIEGO -- A homeless man accused of knocking a woman to the ground as she walked to her car in the East Village, then sexually assaulting her behind some bushes, was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on three felony charges, including assault with intent to commit rape.

Gary Ryan Cushinberry, 51, pleaded not guilty last month to the assault charge and two counts of digital penetration by a foreign object. He was on felony probation for robbery and failing to appear in court when he allegedly attacked the 26-year-old woman in the early morning hours of Nov. 6 near the intersection of 13th Street and Island Avenue.

The alleged victim, who testified at the defendant's preliminary hearing, said she had just left a brewery around 12:30 a.m. when she was pulled down next to her car and sexually assaulted.

"I just froze," the woman testified. While on the ground, she said she saw people walking by but didn't scream.

She said at some point her attacker got up, and she ran back to the brewery where she had been earlier and said she needed help.

A San Diego police officer testified that the alleged victim was "shaken, distraught and upset" when he arrived on the scene. The woman's blood-alcohol level was measured at .275 percent, more than three times the legal limit for driving, two hours after the attack, the officer testified.

Detectives identified Cushinberry -- a recent transplant from Indiana who has been living on the streets of San Diego -- as the alleged perpetrator by means of "several tips and leads," Lt. Jason Weeden said.

Cushinberry was arrested Nov. 14 about 6:45 a.m. in the 200 block of 17th Street.

Judge Louis Hanoian found that enough evidence was presented at the preliminary hearing for Cushinberry to proceed to trial. A Superior Court arraignment was set for Dec. 19.

Cushinberry faces 21 years in prison if convicted, said Deputy District Attorney Martin Doyle.