Defendant’s Wandering Eyes Used to Try to Get Out of Jam, Prosecution Claims

By Hongyi Wen

SACRAMENTO, CA – Vehicle theft defendant Brandon Mackenzie may have wandering eyes, if you believe prosecutors.

Judge Kevin McCormick Wednesday here in Sacramento County Superior Court heard a preliminary hearing regarding a vehicle theft case and ruled the defendant accountable for answering the charges, setting a June 10 trial.

But defendant Mackenzie made it interesting.

He allegedly acquired the victim’s information through a mistake made by the Deputy Sheriff who left the patrol car computer screen on. and Mackenzie, in handcuffs but peeking at the screen, used that data to claim—unsuccessfully—that the victim lent the vehicle to him.

With a prior conviction of a motor vehicle theft charge, Mackenzie faces two counts of vehicle theft charges regarding an incident on June 19, 2020.

Deputy Bryce Schantz provided Judge McCormick with the incident information, noting that around 10 p.m. he received a stolen vehicle alert along with information about the license plate number, a picture of the vehicle, and the direction the vehicle was going.

Deputy Schantz spotted a matching vehicle on a road he was monitoring. After following the vehicle for some distance, Deputy Schantz conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle along with other officers.

Defendant Mackenzie was seen in the vehicle with another passenger, and deputy Schantz ordered Mackenzie to step out of the vehicle and handcuffed both of them.

Schantz said the defendant “said he got it from his friend, his friend let him borrow it, he was supposed to return it the next day I believe. He said his friend was intoxicated, so he might not remember. He stated the victim’s name.”

DDA Divinagracia raised a question about the position of the computer in the police patrol vehicle, which confused Judge McCormick, who asked, “Ms. Divinagracia, what is the relevance to this?”

Divinagracia said, “Your Honor, this is going to be a testimony that the defendant was reading from the computer screen who the registered owner was.”

Assistant Public Defender Dena Stone also chimed in and agreed with the questioning regarding the computer screen position and stated that she would go into more detail about the computer in cross-examination.

Divinagracia continued, “At this time, displayed on your computer screen, was it information related to the registered owner?” Upon objection, she rephrased the question and asked Schantz, “what was displayed on your computer screen at the time?”

Schantz said, “They had the registered owner information on the computer screen, with the registered owner’s name.” The name that appeared on the screen matched the name that Mackenzie later referred to the friend who lent the car.

Deputy Schantz said that Mackenzie possibly obtained the victim’s name by peeking at the computer screen that displayed the registered owner’s information.

Schantz said, “As I was reading him his Miranda Rights, I did notice right away that he was kind of leaning forward and not paying attention to me but looking straight ahead at the computer…I realized that he was looking at the screen, and I looked at the screen and saw that it had the registered owner and all the information.”

During cross-examination, Stone also interrogated Schantz about whether Mackenzie was able to see the computer screen.

Stone started by asking the computer screen size, and officer Schantz said he could not provide the exact measurements. Schantz described the screen size to be the “standard laptop size.”

Stone suggested if it is a fairly small laptop size, Schantz insisted and said it is “standard size.”

Stone questioned whether Schantz was able to read the wording on the screen, and Schantz said he was too far away to see the exact wording on the scream. Regarding the font of the words on the computer, Schantz said it was “standard font.”

Deputy Schantz added that Mackenzie was able to state the victim’s full name.

Deputy Seubert testified that the victim said he did not know defendant Mackenzie and gave no one permission to drive his vehicle, which was worth $1,7513 to $2,074.

Deputy Seubert revealed that during cross-examination, he does not remember that he left the computer screen on with sensitive information on display.

Seubert testified that based on the license plate registration, the actual registered owner is the Enterprise Rent-A-Car company. However, Seubert said he did not conduct any further investigation with the victim about the actual registered owner of the vehicle.

Judge McCormick ruled that there is sufficient evidence to believe that Mackenzie had committed the charges, and the next trial date is set on June 10 in Sacramento Dept. 62.

Hongyi Wen is a junior at UC Santa Cruz, majoring in Sociology. He is from Guangzhou, China.


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