Trial underway for attorney accused of purposely running over, killing man

Defense attorneys say victim’s death was tragic accident
Bryan Keith Schmitt

Credit: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

Bryan Keith Schmitt

The trial began Monday for a metro Atlanta attorney accused of intentionally running over and killing a beloved real estate investor during a road rage dispute involving a golf ball.

Fulton County prosecutors said Bryan Keith Schmitt intentionally rammed Hamid Jahangard with his Mercedes-Benz on July 30, 2019, outside a Sandy Springs home owned by the victim.

Hamid Jahangard

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

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

Jahangard, a 60-year-old father of two, suffered a skull fracture and a mangled leg after getting caught underneath Schmitt’s 4,000-pound luxury sedan, lead prosecutor Pat Dutcher told the jury in his opening statements. He died in the hospital three days later.

Schmitt, now 51, was charged with murder, two counts of felony murder and two counts of aggravated assault after police used a neighbor’s surveillance video and dashcam footage from a passing work truck to determine if the deadly collision was intentional.

Schmitt’s attorneys contend Jahangard’s killing was a tragic accident, and that video shows he tried to brake before fatally striking the man. Schmitt also got out of his car and tried to help the injured Jahangard, waiting with him in the driveway until paramedics arrived, they said.

“It’s a mistake he owns, a mistake he struggles with every day,” Schmitt’s attorney John Garland told the jury. He said his client was simply turning into the driveway to avoid holding up traffic and that he “had no motive to hurt, assault, murder or even scare Mr. Jahangard.”

At the scene, Schmitt told Sandy Springs officers he was driving past the River Valley Road home about 5:30 p.m. when he saw Jahangard “make a throwing motion” and heard something hit his car. That’s when he turned around to confront Jahangard and inspect his Mercedes for damage, he said.

Jahangard had been bouncing a golf ball in the driveway as he talked on the phone with his brother and waited for some painters to arrive, prosecutors acknowledged. His tenant was moving out that day, and the investor planned to list his property for sale.

His brother would later tell police he heard an angry man shouting at Jahangard on the other end of the line, records show.

“I did not throw anything, sir. Get out of my face,” Manoucher Jahangard said he heard his brother say before the line got disconnected. The brothers had been business partners for more than three decades.

On the first day of trial, jurors were repeatedly shown surveillance footage of Schmitt idling in the street before abruptly cranking his wheel left and accelerating into the driveway, running over Jahangard. Dutcher said the entire confrontation between the men lasted just 20 seconds.

The prosecution said it would focus on conflicting statements Schmitt gave investigators at the scene and in the days that followed. Schmitt told Sandy Springs police Officer John Head that Jahangard threw a trashcan into the path of his car as he pulled into the driveway that day, the officer testified, but surveillance video never showed that.

At the scene, Schmitt told police he swerved to avoid hitting the green bin, striking another trashcan in the process. That’s when he noticed Jahangard lying on the concrete and bleeding from his ears, he said, speculating the man must have “lost his footing and fell down.”

A storm in Sandy Springs that afternoon washed away much of the blood evidence before investigators could process the scene.

A golf ball was found in the yard of the home across the street, but Schmitt acknowledged there didn’t appear to be any new damage to his vehicle. Garland, his defense attorney, said his client didn’t know that when he made the decision to turn around.

He wasn’t initially charged and was even allowed to drive home from the scene in his car. But investigators would later later come to Schmitt’s house after Jahangard’s daughter tracked her father’s cellphone to an address about two miles from the crash.

Head, the Sandy Springs officer, testified that Jahangard’s cellphone was located underneath Schmitt’s driver side windshield wiper. Schmitt had no idea it was there, he said.

The murder trial is expected to last several days.