Metro Atlanta attorney sentenced to life with parole in road rage slaying

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Bryan Keith Schmitt convicted on all counts, including malice murder

A metro Atlanta attorney who ran over a man he believed threw a golf ball at his Mercedes was convicted of murder charges Tuesday afternoon and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Bryan Keith Schmitt said he wanted to question Hamid Jahangard in the driveway of a Sandy Springs home three years ago after something struck his car, but that he never meant to hit him with his sedan.

A Fulton County jury rejected that claim, finding the 51-year-old guilty of malice murder, two counts of felony murder and two counts of aggravated assault. The jury deliberated more than six hours over two days before returning guilty verdicts on all five counts he faced.

Schmitt, an in-house attorney for a software development company, was led from the courtroom in handcuffs.

The conviction was a victory for Jahangard’s family, especially his two adult daughters, who waited more than three years for the case to go to trial. Several of the victim’s family members burst into tears as the verdict was read aloud in court. On the other side of the courtroom, Schmitt’s parents and brother clung tightly to one another as deputies led him away.

Credit: H.M. Patterson & Son-Arlington Chapel obituary

Credit: H.M. Patterson & Son-Arlington Chapel obituary

“My dad was the most amazing man that I’ve ever known,” the victim’s daughter, Sepeideh Jahangard, told Judge Melynee Leftridge during sentencing. “He was so much more than a father. He was my best friend.”

Those in attendance fought back tears as she told the court her father was killed less than a year after she and her sister lost their mother to breast cancer.

“He said he wasn’t going anywhere,” she said sobbing. “He promised us that he wasn’t. He told us that every single day.”

Schmitt was driving home from work July 30, 2019, when he heard something slam into the front of his sedan on River Valley Road. The U.S. Army veteran stopped for a moment before turning around to question Jahangard, a real estate investor who had been bouncing a golf ball at the edge of the driveway while talking on his phone.

ExplorePolice: Attorney said fight over golf ball led to death of Atlanta investor

The two exchanged words across traffic after Schmitt stopped his car in the road. Schmitt then made an abrupt left turn into the driveway, striking the curb, a couple trashcans and Jahangard.

Schmitt, who took the stand last week, told the jury he wanted to pull in next to Jahangard and “sort out what had happened,” but underestimated his car’s turning radius. Prosecutors contended he purposely rammed the 60-year-old in a fit of rage, causing the skull fractures that resulted in Jahangard’s death days later.

ExploreMetro Atlanta attorney charged with murder testifies in his own defense

Prosecutor Pat Dutcher said Schmitt knew the victim was standing there, but “acted out of anger” when he turned his wheel and stepped on the gas.

“It was a violent death. It was a gruesome death,” Dutcher told the jury in his closing arguments. “It was a death that left him suffering in the hospital for two days until he was pronounced brain dead.”

Jurors were repeatedly shown footage of the deadly crash from two angles: a clip from the dashboard of a passing HVAC truck and another from a home’s security camera across the street. The video showed Schmitt make an abrupt left across traffic before hitting Jahangard with the front of his car.

After the crash, Schmitt immediately jumped out of his running vehicle and rendered aid to the injured Jahangard. Surveillance footage also appeared to show him braking just before impact, attorney Don Samuel noted in his closing arguments.

“He puts the brakes on. He veers to the right. He’s not accelerating as fast as he could,” Samuel said. “These are all signals this was not intentional.”

Prosecutors drilled down on erroneous statements made by Schmitt to first responders and bystanders. He first said Jahangard “jumped in front” of his car, then told police Jahangard pushed a trashcan in front of his car, forcing him to swerve around it.

After three hours of deliberations, the jury asked to see the written statement Schmitt gave Sandy Springs police that night.

ExploreJury deliberations underway in attorney’s road rage murder trial

The attorney’s 2011 sedan had numerous dings and dents, investigators said, but Schmitt was unable to pinpoint the exact area where the golf ball struck his car.

He was allowed to leave the scene in his car that night. But Sandy Springs investigators later came to his townhome in search of Jahangard’s cellphone, which his daughters had tracked to an address about two miles from the crash. Police located the phone below Schmitt’s driver side windshield wiper. Schmitt told them he had no idea it was there.

“He destroyed our world,” Jahangard’s older daughter, Sahar Jahangard told the judge. “Any comfort I ever had was taken away from me. My mom’s not around. My dad’s not around. You took my whole family and destroyed it.”

Credit: GoFundMe

Credit: GoFundMe

Jahangard’s daughters called their father “the embodiment of the American dream.” When he moved to America from Iran to attend community college, he had less than $200 in his pocket, they said. He took a job as a bus boy, worked hard and was able to raise enough money to bring his siblings to the U.S.

Jahangard was able to build a successful life for himself and raise a beautiful family, they said.

Credit: Shaddi Abusaid / shaddi.abusaid@ajc.com

Credit: Shaddi Abusaid / shaddi.abusaid@ajc.com

Schmitt’s mother and brother also addressed the court, telling Schmitt they loved him and would always support him. He’ll be 81 years old by the time he’s eligible for parole.

“We love you Bryan,” his mother Patricia said. “We know you love us and we thank you for everything you have given us.”

As they left the courtroom Tuesday afternoon, Schmitt’s attorneys said they plan to appeal.