Attorney for ex-APD detective hopes to move case to federal court

Charles "Trey" Kleinert at indictment hearing. (KXAN Photo)
Charles "Trey" Kleinert at indictment hearing. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The attorney for former Austin Police Detective Charles Kleinert is expected to file a motion Tuesday or sometime this week to move his case out of district court and into federal court, according to sources close to the investigation.

The reason for the move is because Kleinert was a federal officer at the time of the shooting and was involved in a special task force with the Austin Police Department working with the federal government. It remains unclear what advantage moving the case to federal court would pose for Kleinert and if he would continue to face a manslaughter charge. Those details are expected to be outlined in the motion.

In December, Kleinert pleaded not guilty to a manslaughter charge stemming from the shooting death of Larry Jackson Jr. after a chase and a struggle in July 2013. A Travis County grand jury indicted Kleinert in mid-May. The second-degree charge carries a punishment of two- to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

The trial is scheduled to begin April 20. The judge has set aside two weeks for the trial.

Kleinert indictment and events leading up to it

The grand jury ruled Kleinert created “a substantial and unjustifiable risk” when he attempted to physically control Jackson while holding a loaded gun, court documents said. It also said Kleinert recklessly caused Jackson’s death by striking him while holding a loaded firearm in that hand.

On July 26, Jackson showed up at a bank that had just been robbed — a crime scene Kleinert was investigating. Police said the detective began questioning Jackson after bank staff said they recognized him as a man who might try to defraud the bank. When Jackson ran off after the detective questioned him, Kleinert followed the 32-year-old. The chase ended near Shoal Creek in Central Austin, and Kleinert’s position is that the deadly gunshot that hit Jackson in the neck was accidental.

The grand jury said Kleinert did not maintain a sufficient distance from Jackson in which he could safely holster the gun.

On Oct. 7, 2013, the Citizen’s Review Panel had a hearing on the case, conducted at the request of the Police Monitor’s Office. It could be considered by the grand jury but does not necessarily have to be used in any criminal proceeding.

Kleinert’s time on the force

Kleinert retired from the Austin police force on Oct. 22. Kleinert’s retirement after nearly 20 years on the job allowed the longtime officer to:
  • Avoid internal discipline from the chief that might have followed October’s Citizen’s Review Panel hearing and its recommendations.
  • Immediately collect his pension. It is granted to officers who have served a full 23 years. Kleinert was able to buy out his remaining three years and several months to permit the collection of a full pension. The Austin Police Association confirms an officer’s pension is theirs to keep even in the event of a criminal conviction.

Austin police salary scales for 2013-2014 show a detective corporal with 19-20 years of service earns up to $99,800 a year. The prior year pay scale shows a salary of $98,327. A senior police official said Tuesday officers who have served a full 23 years retire on 73.6 percent of the highest three years of the last ten years of base salary.

Pension records are protected under state law, but calculations show Kleinert will be eligible to collect $72,329 annually. It will be taxed at a normal rate, the official said. The Austin City Council decided in February it could not reach a lawsuit settlement with the family of Larry Jackson, Jr. before a Travis County grand jury got the case.

Jackson’s parents and sister filed a separate civil suit against the city and APD. They are represented by another attorney. Any money for lawsuit settlement would come from the city’s liability reserve fund. The city has a financial cap on any award.

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