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Feds indict SF immigrant acquitted in Kate Steinle's death

07 December 2017

The undocumented Mexican national acquitted in the killing of Kate Steinle will face federal charges connected to the deadly and highly-politicized shooting in San Francisco, the US Department of Justice announced Tuesday.

A jury rejected that charge last week and convicted Garcia Zarate only of being a felon in possession of a gun.

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

Garcia Zarate, who had served a federal prison sentence for illegal re-entry to the United States, was transferred in March of 2015 to San Francisco's jail to face a 20-year-old charge for selling marijuana. He has been in jail since the day of the shooting.

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"Those who are using this for political benefits, to attack San Francisco and San Francisco values, I only say that this is an incredible city".

Before Steinle's death in July 2015, Garcia Zarate was deported five times; at the time of the shooting he was wanted for a sixth deportation on drug-related felonies. 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.

Shockingly, the jury was not told that Zarate was a 7-time convicted felon when deciding his verdict.

The Justice Department indictment makes no mention of the state's murder or manslaughter charges of which Zarate was acquitted. The defense said the weapon went off by accident, and the bullet ricocheted off the ground and traveled about 80 feet before hitting Steinle.

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

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

Under a sanctuary city law, San Francisco authorities released him from custody three months before the shooting, instead of turning him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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

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Feds indict SF immigrant acquitted in Kate Steinle's death