The defense attorney for a man accused of a bizarre sexual assault in a Big Lots bathroom said the attack - and the pink Barbie costume he wore during the assault - were brought on by the use of drugs.
Opening statements from the defense claimed that Gregory Philip Schwartz, 41, was drunk and high on meth, and had been up for hours at the time of the assault. She said Schwartz suffered from drug-induced “transvestic fetishism."
Some evidence, including the stolen Barbie costume, was presented and testimony was heard from the victim, a Big Lots employee and a security guard who encountered the defendant the day of the attack.
Schwartz is charged with multiple felonies, including assault with attempt to commit rape, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury and false imprisonment by violence in the February attack. He is also charged with shoplifting the dress he donned during the attack – a child’s pink Barbie cheerleader costume.
The victim said she entered the restroom while talking on the phone and went into a stall. She was getting ready to take a seat when something caught her eye.
“I noticed something in my peripheral vision, so I looked over and I saw a man’s bare feet…in the stall next to mine,” the victim said in court Thursday.
She said 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. Schwartz allegedly grabbed the woman, held her by her neck and attempted to sexually assault her, police said.
The woman fought back and was able to escape and run to a store security guard.
Prosecutors allege that Schwartz ran back into the men's restroom to change out of the Barbie costume before trying to leave the store. The defendant 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 screwdriver, then fled the store, according to the security guard's testimony.
An employee at a nearby hair salon said she was sitting in her car when the defendant opened the passenger door and asked her if she wanted to do meth, according to preliminary testimony by Detective Carmelin Rivera with the San Diego Police Department’s Sex Crimes Unit.
Schwartz was later identified after surveillance footage from the store captured what investigators described as unusual behavior for several hours. He was also seen on camera entering the restroom wearing the dress he had stolen, according to San Diego Police Lt. Chuck Kaye.
Schwartz entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment in March, and bail, which was initially set to $100,000, was raised to $110,000 for a parole violation related to a misdemeanor for child endangerment and cocaine possession conviction.
The prosecution said although the victim made it out of the alleged attack, the case is important for public safety.
“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.
If convicted on the assault charges, Schwartz faces seven years in prison. The trial is ongoing.