AUSTIN (KXAN) — A federal judge has ruled the case of an Austin PD detective accused of shooting and killing Larry Jackson, Jr. will remain in Federal Court.
At issue is whether Det. Charles Kleinert’s manslaughter trial would be heard in a Travis County Court or a federal court since Kleinert was working as part of a federal task force during the altercation with Jackson. Kleinert’s attorneys have said his gun accidentally went off when he caught up to and tried to detain Jackson, striking him in the back of the head and killing him.
Judge Lee Yeakel issued the ruling Tuesday saying U.S. District Court has jurisdiction over the case specifically because of Kleinert’s assertion that he was working on a federal task force and is immune to prosecution as a result of his status as a federal agent.
Continuing Coverage: Larry Jackson Jr. Shooting
In the ruling Judge Yeakel states “The issue of whether Kleinert is entitled to federal-officer immunity is an issue for another day.”
On the day Kleinert is charged with shooting and killing Jackson while working for the Austin Police Department, he was also on an FBI task force. At the federal level, Kleinert attorney Randy Leavitt can argue that federal agents can be subject to immunity from criminal prosecution while carrying out their law enforcement duties. That’s a defense typically used in civil cases where a federal agent is being sued for money. Attorneys for the Travis County District Attorney’s Office argue that neither state nor federal law protects a police officer from what they describe as reckless behavior.
In July 2013, Kleinert was the detective investigating a bank robbery when police say he chased down Jackson, struggled with him, and shot him. Kleinert is facing a manslaughter charge for which he has entered a not guilty plea.
“We believe he would’ve received a fair process in state court or federal court, but due to the circumstances of Trey working for the federal government we felt like this was the best place for it to go,” said Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association.
Kleinert’s attorney Randy Leavitt says he and his client are pleased with the ruling.
The Jackson family’s civil lawyer, Adam Loewy, said he’s confident moving the case will speed up the trial.
“We welcome that ruling because now at least there will be a trial date that is set and we can get this thing on the road,” said Loewy. “I am confident a trial date will get set by the fall and we will have a trial unlike anything this city has ever seen.”