By Fiona Davis
SACRAMENTO, CA – A man accused of attempting to carjack several vehicles in an effort to escape a group of people he said was chasing and beating him is set to go to trial after his preliminary hearing last week in Sacramento County Superior Court.
Charles Trent Kleinschmidt has been charged with attempted carjacking and taking “a vehicle not his own” without consent, after an incident that occurred on June 10, 2020.
During Kleinschmidt’s preliminary hearing, two officers involved in the defendant’s arrest testified before Judge Stephen Acquisto, recounting what they had gathered during Kleinschmidt’s detainment and their separate investigations.
Their combined testimony—based majorly on surveillance footage and witness testimony—established that on that day, a group of eight to 10 people had been chasing Kleinschmidt when he entered a Sacramento auto repair shop, and jumped into a pick-up truck through an open window.
While Kleinschmidt tried and failed to start the truck, and one witness tried and failed to get him to leave, the group moved toward the truck “with intent” and surrounded Kleinschmidt, with one individual punching him through the open window, according to the officers.
After he was unable to start the vehicle, Kleinschmidt allegedly crawled back out through the car window and climbed to the roof, before he was dragged down by one of the people chasing him.
The group, said witnesses, then kicked and punched him as he lay on the ground, until he was able to get up and move further into the auto repair shop. Several officers arrived afterwards.
The identities of the people pursuing and assaulting the defendant, or their reason for their actions, were not stated during the hearing. Moreover, neither officer said whether anyone from the group was arrested.
Prior to his entry into the auto repair shop and approximately half a mile away, Kleinschmidt allegedly attempted to get into and leave with both occupied and unoccupied vehicles outside a boxing gym.
In one instance, he tried to get into a moving car, hanging onto it even as it tried to drive away from him.
In another, he opened an unlocked passenger door of a woman waiting in her car with her young daughter. When he entered the vehicle, he began to pull on her shirt and try to take away her keys, making the woman believe he was trying to take her car.
Eventually, the young daughter was able to gain the attention of a man who worked at the boxing gym, who was successfully able to convince Kleinschmidt to get out of the car.
While the woman, her daughter, or the gym worker did not report seeing anyone coming after the defendant, comments Kleinschmidt made while in the car indicated that he believed that he was being pursued
“Help me,” Kleinschmidt was quoted as having told the driver. “They’re trying to kill me.”
Officer Catalina Hernandez, of the Sacramento patrol division, noted the defendant’s anxious, disheveled demeanor. In her report, she recorded Kleinschmidt’s wide eyes, and lack of calm in the moments following his arrest.
She also recalled him stating that he had been affected by controlled substances during the time of the incident, as he stated to her that had had “too much meth” that day.
During the preliminary hearing, while the prosecution and defense didn’t push for drastically different versions of the event in question, each side placed the defendant in different lights, as his identity shifted from victim to perpetrator.
Kleinschmidt’s defense attorney, when questioning Officer Hernandez, emphasized the defendant’s fear of those coming after him, arguing that he was simply trying to get away from the group.
Deputy District Attorney Adrianne McMillian emphasized the defendant’s hazy responses to officer Hernandez’s question, noting, “He just vaguely said people were after him,” Officer Hernandez testified.
Judge Acquisto ruled he believed that the prosecution’s case was enough to move forward with a jury trial.
Kleinschmidt continues to plead not guilty to all charges.