SAN DIEGO - A parolee accused of attacking a woman on a pedestrian trail in Balboa Park last month pleaded not guilty Thursday to a charge of assault with intent to commit rape.
Ameen Bryant, 21, was ordered held on $500,000 bail.
Deputy District Attorney Renee Palermo said the victim was walking on the trail south of the Cabrillo Bridge around lunchtime on Jan. 14 when Bryant -- a documented gang member -- started following her.
"He just came up behind her, grabbed her, threw her to the ground and got on top of here. She's screaming; he took a handful of dirt and tried to cover her mouth with it. She continued to struggle and that's when the joggers came down and thwarted his attack. He ran toward the joggers and they were able to identify him and pick him out of a live line-up. DNA is what connected us back to him," said Palermo.
Bryant ran away toward the joggers, and they were able to identity him in a live lineup, the prosecutor said.
The defendant's DNA was found on the victim, Palermo said. She said Bryant was on parole for a 2012 robbery conviction.
"He's a danger to this community," Palermo said outside court. "It's a brazen attack in broad daylight in Balboa Park, which is something we all should be able to enjoy every day."
10News spoke with several people walking, biking and running in Balboa Park about safety concerns.
A man on a trail bike said, "I wouldn't be worried about anybody; no, I wouldn't."
Kristen Anderson stopped briefly during her mid-day run, and she told 10News, "I haven't but I have seen a lot of suspicious-looking people. I try to stay away from those areas but I have run on that trail a lot of times ... on the Bridle Trail; that exact spot where the woman was attacked. I thought it was pretty safe because [state Route] 163 is right next to it, because of all the cars driving by and also a lot of people that walk on it."
Rebecca Chase was taking a solitary walk when asked if she ever worried.
"A little bit because I don't come down here very often, just periodically so I stay on my toes and watch who's around. I have my keys, good strong legs; other than that I'm not really sure. I'm usually walking with someone," she told 10News.
Bryant will be back in court Feb. 19 for a readiness conference and Feb. 21 for a preliminary hearing. He faces 12 years in state prison if convicted.