Published: Thu, December 07, 2017
Markets | By Rosalie Gross

Illegal alien acquitted in killing faces new US counts

Illegal alien acquitted in killing faces new US counts

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who was acquitted last week of state murder and involuntary manslaughter charges, was charged Tuesday with one count of a felon in possession of firearm and one count of an immigrant in possession of a firearm.

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.

Jurors in San Francisco Superior Court on Thursday found Garcia Zarate, 45, not guilty of murder and assault with a deadly weapon in the July 1, 2015 shooting of Steinle, a 32-year-old Pleasanton native who was killed as she walked on Pier 14 with her father.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said the jury's decision was "hard to receive".

Legal experts say prosecutors overreached by asking for a first-degree murder conviction because the fatal shot ricocheted off the ground, supporting Garcia Zarate's defense that the shooting was an accident.

Defense lawyers for Garcia Zarate said Monday they will appeal the state charge for which he was convicted. Garcia Zarate is to be sentenced in state court December 14.

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Defense attorneys for Garcia Zarate argued the gun, which had been stolen from the auto of a Bureau of Land Management ranger, was accidentally fired by Garcia Zarate.

The Justice Department indictment makes no mention of the state's murder or manslaughter charges of which Zarate was acquitted. Garcia Zarate claimed the shooting was accidental.

The killing of Steinle became linked with the controversy over illegal immigration, and President Donald Trump referred to the case in pushing for stricter policies and in criticizing so-called "sanctuary cities". "This tragedy could have been prevented if San Francisco had turned the alien over to ICE, as we requested, instead of releasing him back onto the streets".

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

The case also caught the attention of presidential candidate Donald Trump past year, who used it to highlight crime committed by undocumented immigrants during his campaign.

However critics have argued they encourage crime, and the current administration has made several attempts to punish Sanctuary City jurisdictions by withholding federal grant funds.

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