Feds indict SF immigrant acquitted in Kate Steinle's death

Matt Gonzalez and press

Federal prosecutors Tuesday said new immigration and weapons charges have been filed against Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an undocumented immigrant who was acquitted last week on murder charges in the fatal shooting of San Francisco resident Kate Steinle.

Garcia Zarate has been indicted on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and for being an illegally present alien on possession of a firearm.

A San Francisco jury last week convicted him of a state charge of felon in possession of a firearm after acquitting him of murder and assault for the July 1, 2015 shooting.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, whose office prosecuted Garcia Zarate, said the jury's decision last week was "hard to receive" but that he respects the decision.

Garcia Zarate, who is from Mexico and has been deported from the United States five times, faces up to 10 years in prison on each count, if convicted. He has been in jail since the day of the shooting.

Garcia-Zarate's public defenders said the shooting was accidental, that the gun went off unintentionally after Garcia-Zarate found it wrapped in a rag beneath a bench. They believe the gun possession conviction seemed at odds with the acquittals, given that those verdicts aligned with the defense contention that Garcia Zarate found the gun by happenstance at the pier where the shooting occurred.

Garcia Zarate faced a charge of second-degree murder, but jurors were allowed to consider first-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter convictions.

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The new charges appear to signal that federal authorities hope to try, convict and incarcerate the five-time deportee before he is ultimately expelled from the U.S.

President Donald Trump frequently brought up the case past year during his presidential campaign to criticize efforts in the U.S.to combat illegal immigration.

San Francisco prohibits city law enforcement officers from asking about immigration status or detaining people exclusively on the basis of civil immigration detainers after they are eligible for release.

San Francisco is one of 200 sanctuary cities around the country, so the local police don't have to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Gascon on Tuesday called Trump a "madman" for a series of tweets deriding the jury's verdict.

President Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from cities with similar policies.

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