Mistrial in Balboa Park attempted rape case

SAN DIEGO - A deadlocked jury prompted a judge to declare a mistrial Thursday in the case against a documented gang member accused of assaulting a woman on a Balboa Park trail and trying to rape and rob her.

Jurors told Judge Howard Shore they were hopelessly deadlocked on felony charges of assault with intent to commit rape and attempted robbery in the trial of 21-year-old Ameen Bryant. Deliberations lasted about a day-and-a-half.

The jury foreman told the judge the panel was deadlocked 8-4 for not guilty on both charges. A status conference is set for Monday.

Deputy District Attorney Renee Palermo said in her opening statement that Bryant grabbed the 24-year-old victim from behind on a Balboa Park trail and intended to rape her, but defense attorney Richard Jayakumar said his client only wanted the woman's cellphone to trade for drugs.

Palermo said the defendant stalked, then grabbed the woman on the trail Jan. 14.

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, Palermo said.

The victim and other witnesses identified Bryant as the attacker, according to the prosecutor.

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.

"His intent was to steal, not to rape," Jayakumar told the jury.

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 saw Bryant 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."

Bryant faces 12 years in prison if convicted of assault with intent to commit rape.

The defendant was on parole for a 2012 robbery conviction at the time of the attack in Balboa Park, Palermo said.

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