Jury selection begins for Barbie attacker

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The attorney for a man accused of attacking a woman in a toilet stall at a Big Lots store last year while wearing a child’s pink Barbie costume told a jury Thursday that he may have cross-dressed because he was high on alcohol and methamphetamine but was not guilty of an assault.

Gregory Phillip Schwartz, 41, is charged with four felonies, including assault with the intent to commit rape and false imprisonment by violence. He faces more than seven years in prison if convicted.

In her opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Mary-Ellen Barrett told jurors that the victim — identified as Susan in court — went into the Big Lots store in Clairemont the afternoon of Feb. 28 and entered the women’s restroom while talking on her cell phone.

Once in a stall, Susan noticed a man’s bare feet in the stall next to her, Barrett said.

The prosecutor alleged Schwartz crawled until a partition and grabbed the victim by the neck. When she screamed, the defendant put his hand over her mouth and said “Shhh,” according to the prosecutor.

The victim told authorities that her attacker put his hands in his waist, and fearing he was about to unbutton his pants, she fought him and ran out of the restroom.

Store surveillance video shows Schwartz emerge from the women’s restroom wearing the Barbie costume and go into the men’s restroom. Minutes later, the defendant emerges, wearing pants and a Padres jacket, and exits the store.

Defense attorney Brianne Murphy told the jury that Schwartz had been up for hours, `acting weird,” drinking and using methamphetamine, prior to the encounter.

She said an expert on transgender issues will testify that some people tend to cross-dress when they’re high.

Murphy said that despite the victim’s claims, Schwartz was not wearing pants when he came out of the women’s restroom.

As testimony began, Big Lots employee Kevin Barerra said he heard the victim scream and seconds later saw a “panicky” Schwartz — dressed in the pink Barbie costume — go into the men’s restroom.

Within minutes, the defendant emerged wearing pants and the Padres jacket.

Barerra said the defendant kept saying, “I didn’t do anything,” before walking out of the store.

The employee said the woman was “shocked, scared and shaking” when he approached her after the incident.

Schwartz was arrested in the Clairemont area two days later. Police said at the time of his arrest that Schwartz was on probation for two misdemeanor convictions, including one for drugs.

Categories: KUSI