A man who robbed a mother-to-be in her Pacific Beach apartment while his accomplice blocked the front door to keep the victim from fleeing was sentenced Friday to 30 years to life in state prison, prompting a courtroom outburst by the defendant.
James Lee Graham, 41, was convicted last month of robbery, burglary, false imprisonment and resisting arrest for the Dec. 14, 2017, home invasion. The victim was seven months pregnant at the time.
Graham and his accomplice, Stephanie Majsterski, 26, entered the woman’s third-story apartment about 9 p.m. when her husband left to go to the laundry room on the first floor, leaving the apartment door closed but unlocked, according to Deputy District Attorney Lucy Yturralde.
Upon entering, Graham asked the victim for money and her car, while gesturing with his hand inside his jacket sleeve, as though concealing a knife, while Majsterski blocked the door.
The victim testified that she told Graham she did not have any money or a car, but said he could take whatever he wanted from the apartment.
Some of the couple’s property, including two laptops, a cell phone and a wallet, were found strewn along the area where Graham was eventually found and arrested, Yturralde said. More of the victims’ items were found inside a backpack Graham was carrying, according to the prosecutor.
Graham’s attorney, Denis Lainez, said his client and Majsterski went to the apartment complex to meet another person who lived on the third floor, but wandered into the victim’s unit by mistake.
Graham was under the influence of methamphetamine and had consumed “an entire bottle of vodka” prior to arriving at the apartment complex, according to his attorney, who said his client had no memory of the incident.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Robert F. O’Neill declined to stay sentences on multiple prior convictions in Graham’s case, saying he was “a poster child for the three strikes law.”
Lainez asked for leniency, arguing that Graham’s crimes, while classified as violent under the law, were “not inherently violent,” stressing that no weapon was actually used and the victim was not physically harmed. The defense attorney said a sentence exceeding just over 19 years would be more appropriate.
O’ Neill was not swayed, citing Graham’s extensive criminal history, which includes 10 robbery convictions dating back to 2008.
As the sentence was being delivered, Graham interrupted the judge and asked “Why don’t you just give me the death penalty? This is ridiculous. There’s people who kill people and get less time than this.”
He voiced similar protests through the conclusion of the hearing, but his last words to a few family members in attendance were “Love you guys,” before he was escorted out of the courtroom.
Majsterski pleaded guilty last year to burglary, false imprisonment and vehicle theft for taking part in the robbery, then stealing a San Diego police cruiser. She was sentenced to five years in prison last September.
Both defendants fled the apartment on foot, then split up. Graham was quickly arrested, while Majsterski briefly absconded with the police vehicle. She was arrested a short time after crashing the SUV into the water at Fiesta Island, as she tried to sneak off the island as a passenger in another car.
–City News Service
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