SAN DIEGO — A man who attacked a woman on a Balboa Park trail and tried to steal her cell phone pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted robbery.
Ameen Bryant, 22, was initially charged with assault with intent to commit rape, but a jury deadlocked 8-4 for not guilty on that charge and the attempted robbery charge, which was added after the defendant admitted on the witness stand that he attacked the victim with the intent to steal her phone.
Bryant — who has a 2012 armed robbery conviction from Los Angeles — faces up to 11 years in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 2.
Deputy District Attorney Renee Palermo said it would have been difficult to retry the case on the sexual assault charge.
“The difficulty is in proving the defendant’s intent at the time he attacked the victim,” Palermo said outside court. “The assault was interrupted before he could do anything obviously sexual, and then he took the stand and admitted to just trying to steal her cell phone. Fortunately for the victim she wasn’t sexually assaulted.”
During trial, Palermo said the defendant stalked, then grabbed the woman on the trail Jan. 14 as she walked during a lunch break from work.
The woman ended up on her back with the defendant on top of her, trying to pin her down, Palermo said.
“She (the victim) fought for her dignity,” the prosecutor told jurors. “She’s yelling, `rape, rape.’ He intended to rape her that day.”
Bryant put a hand over the victim’s mouth, then tried to put dirt in it, Palermo said. Bryant was startled by two joggers and ran off, holding his pants up, the prosecutor said.
DNA recovered from the victim’s face matched the defendant’s, and the victim and other witnesses identified Bryant as the attacker, according to the prosecutor.
Defense attorney Richard Jayakumar told the jury that police assumed Bryant intended to rape the victim that day.
In fact, the defendant went to Balboa Park hoping to steal something he could use to buy drugs, his attorney said.
Bryant planned to run up from behind the woman and steal her cellphone, according to Jayakumar.
After the victim yelled rape, Bryant was so “freaked out” that he ran off without taking the woman’s cellphone, the defense attorney said.
Bryant started taking drugs at age 7 and stealing when he was 13, according to court testimony.
The victim testified she was walking on the trail — which she had done many times before — listening to music with her headphones on.
She said she passed Bryant on the trail, then looked back to make sure he wasn’t following her.
The woman testified she got a “creepy feeling” after making eye contact with him.
As she looked back a second time, the woman said she noticed Bryant walking faster and she started running.
As she reached the top of an incline, she said she saw a shadow and felt Bryant’s hands around her waist, under her shirt.
She said she fell forward and ended up on her back, with the defendant sitting on her hips.
She started yelling “help” and “rape,” because she was afraid Bryant — who put his hand over her mouth but said nothing — might kill her, she said.
“His hands were trying to get at my waist,” the woman testified.
She said her attacker never asked for money or her cellphone, which ended up on the ground about a foot away from her.
“I have a small recollection of him trying to pull my pants down,” the victim testified. “I told him to get off of me.”