James Lee Graham, 41, is accused of burglary, robbery, false imprisonment, and resisting an officer in the Dec. 14, 2017 incident at the Cedar Shores Apartments in the 2100 block of Pacific Beach Drive.
“Meet Mr. Graham,” said Deputy District Attorney Lucille Yturralde, gesturing to Graham in her opening statement to the seven-man, five-woman jury before San Diego Superior Court Judge Robert O’Neill.
“He’s an opportunist, a robber, and a burglar,” said Yturralde. “He took what he saw.”
Graham’s attorney, Denis Lainez, told jurors Graham was under the influence of vodka and methamphetamine and lacked any intent to commit robbery or burglary.
Lainez said Graham and the woman with him only were there to look up an acquaintance in the same building. Lainez said “it was an accident” the two people came into the apartment as they were looking for the acquaintance.
Lainez said Graham has bipolar personality disorder and he will testify in the trial, which is estimated to last at least a week. “He doesn’t remember doing this,” said Lainez.
The prosecutor said Graham and a woman walked into the apartment of Carolina Souza who was working on her computer around 9 p.m. Souza’s husband had left the front door unlocked because he was doing laundry on another floor, said Yturralde.
Souza identified Graham in court as the “very nervous, very agitated” man who burst into her apartment. “I was very afraid,” she said.
“He was imitating that he had a knife in his sleeve. He was pointing it at me,” said Souza. “I believed it was a knife.”
Souza said she was seven months pregnant after previously having a miscarriage. “I was concerned for the baby,” she said.
Souza said Graham and the woman with him took her computer, laptop, cell phone, and wallet before leaving. “I told him he could have anything he sees,” adding that he asked her for a car.
Yturralde played the recorded 911 call that Souza made to San Diego Police in which she said a man with a knife and a woman had robbed her in her apartment. The witness wept upon hearing her words.
The jury was not told that co-defendant Stephanie Nicole Majsterski, 25, pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced Sept. 28 to five years in state prison.
Graham was arrested a few blocks from the apartment, but Majsterski stole a police vehicle and drove it to Fiesta Island. Majsterski drove it into the water, but she was also arrested while trying to hide in sand around 9:30 p.m.
If convicted, Graham faces 63 years to life in prison. He has pleaded not guilty in this case and remains in jail on $600,000 bail.