The trial for the man accused of a brazen sexual assault in a Big Lots bathroom closed Wednesday as the defendant argued he had no recollection of the alleged attack.
Gregory Phillip Schwartz, 41, said he was drunk and high on meth and had been up for several days at the time of the alleged assault. He said, though, that he does not remember much of what he heard from others’ testimonies.
"I start hallucinating when I've been up that long...from sleep deprivation and the drug," Schwartz said in court Wednesday. "I was out of my mind."
Schwartz is charged with multiple felonies, including assault with intent to commit rape, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury and false imprisonment by violence in the February assault. He is also charged with shoplifting the dress he donned during the attack – a pink Barbie cheerleader costume.
The victim, who testified under her first name only at the beginning of the trial, said she entered the bathroom inside a Clairemont Big Lots while talking on the phone. She said she went into a stall and was getting ready to take a seat when she caught the sight of a man’s bare feet on the ground in the stall next to her.
The man then climbed up on the toilet and peered over the stall at her before getting down on all fours and crawling into her stall to attack her, she said. She alleged that the defendant grabbed her, held her by her neck and attempted to sexually assault her.
Schwartz, however, said he only remembers waking up to a screaming woman in the adjoining stall. He said he had gone into the men’s restroom to masturbate after hours of drinking in an attempt to come down off the meth and sleep. He did not know at the time that he had fallen asleep for two hours before switching to the women’s restroom.
“I remember waking up on the floor and a woman had her hands over her ears and she was screaming,” he said in court. “I was half in my stall and half encroaching on hers.”
The defendant said he does not remember peeking over the stall; only that the screaming sobered him up.
“I went back into my stall and she continued to scream for ten more seconds and I waited for her to go out,” he said.
Prosecutors allege that Schwartz ran back into the men’s restroom to change out of the Barbie costume before trying to leave. He was confronted by a Clairemont Town Square security guard and dropped a pair of women’s underwear on the ground before brandishing what appeared to be a screw driver, then fled the store, according to earlier testimony from the security guard.
Earlier that same day, an employee at a nearby hair salon was reportedly sitting in her car when the defendant opened the passenger door and asked her if she wanted to smoke meth, according to testimony by Detective Carmelin Rivera with the San Diego Police Department’s Sex Crimes Unit.
Schwartz said he does not recollect that either.
Much was learned about Schwartz in his testimony, including the fact that he is a Navy veteran and has a six-year-old daughter. He is also divorced and his only real chunk of sobriety was during his seven-year marriage, ending in 2010.
Before losing his job and his home two years ago, Schwartz worked as an electrician, he told the jury Wednesday.
But addiction – which Schwartz’s attorneys are using in multiple ways to argue his innocence – has been on ongoing problem for many years, he said. He has been in and out of recovery programs, both successfully and not, since his time in the Navy, and had left a rehabilitation center less than two weeks before the attack, he said in court.
Schwartz’s defense team argued at the beginning of the trial that he suffered from drug-induced “transvestic fetishism” and becomes more sexual and is aroused by cross-dressing while under the influence of meth.
Psychiatrist and addiction specialist Dr. Alan Abrams took the stand to confirm that fact; stating masturbation, use of pornography and heightened sexuality are not uncommon for meth users.
“People who use methamphetamine come to experience a particularly heightened euphoria from their sexual behavior, and so things develop from that pairing where users of methamphetamine come to want to enhance their sexuality by using methamphetamine, and so they get into this vicious cycle,” Abrams told the jury.
Abrams also detailed the difference between homosexual males, bisexual males and those men who enjoy sex with other men while high on drugs, but are neither bisexual nor homosexual.
According to Schwartz’s testimony, he has secretly worn women’s clothes and indulged in sex with other men since age 17, but only while high on “uppers.”
The prosecution said at the start of the case, that although the victim made it out of the alleged attack, the case is important for the safety of the public.
“I have never handled a case like this before,” said Deputy District Attorney Mary-Ellen Barrett, prosecutor in the case.
“Based on the charges and what happened in the case, we’re taking it very seriously as a public risk and thankfully the victim came out fine. She’s injured and she’s scared, but she will recover and that’s all we want,” Barrett added.
The trial closed Wednesday afternoon and it is now up to a jury to decide Schwartz’s fate. If convicted, he faces seven years in prison.