SAN DIEGO — A man who robbed a mother-to-be in the victim’s Pacific Beach apartment while his accomplice blocked the front door to keep the woman from fleeing was convicted of robbery, burglary, false imprisonment and resisting arrest Friday.
James Lee Graham, 41, is slated to be sentenced next month for the Dec. 14, 2017, robbery of a woman who was seven months pregnant at the time of the home invasion. He faces more than 55 years to life in prison due to Friday’s convictions, as well as up to 10 prior robbery convictions dating back to 2008.
Deputy District Attorney Lucy Yturralde told jurors that Graham and his accomplice, Stephanie Majsterski, 26, entered the woman’s third-story apartment about 9 p.m. when the victim’s husband left to go to the laundry room on the first floor of the complex, leaving the apartment door shut, but unlocked.
Upon entering, Graham asked the victim for money and her car, while gesturing with his hand inside his jacket sleeve, as though concealing a knife, while Majsterski blocked the door.
The victim told Graham that she did not have any money or a car, but said he could take whatever items were present in the apartment, the victim testified.
Those items, which included two laptops, a cell phone and a wallet, were found strewn along the area where Graham was eventually found and arrested, Yturralde said. More of the victims’ items were found inside a backpack Graham was carrying, according to the prosecutor.
Graham’s attorney, Denis Lainez, said his client and Majsterski went to the apartment complex to meet another person who lived on the third floor, but wandered into the victim’s unit by mistake.
Lainez said Graham was under the influence of methamphetamine and had consumed “an entire bottle of vodka” prior to arriving at the apartment complex.
Lainez conceded that once inside the apartment, Graham did take some items, but maintained that he never threatened or touched the woman. In addition to intoxication, Lainez said Graham suffered from an undiagnosed bipolar disorder and was homeless at the time.
Graham “simply doesn’t remember doing this” due to his level of intoxication, his attorney said.
Yturralde said there was no indication that the defendant was under the influence.
“At the end of the trial, you’ll see that the only reason he did (the robbery) was because he wanted to,” she said.
Majsterski pleaded guilty last year to burglary, false imprisonment and vehicle theft for taking part in the robbery, then stealing a San Diego police cruiser while fleeing the robbery scene and driving the SUV into the water at Fiesta Island. She was sentenced to five years in prison last September.
Both defendants fled the apartment on foot, but split up, authorities said. Graham was quickly arrested, while Majsterski briefly absconded with the police SUV.
She was arrested a short time after crashing the SUV into the water, as she tried to sneak off the island as a passenger in another car.