Late last week, the Mexican man implicated in the 2015 killing of Kate Steinle was pronounced “not guilty” in a San Francisco court.
The case was made especially contentious by its surrounding politics.
Accused of the crime was Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, a homeless Mexican migrant. Garcia-Zarate had a history of crossing the United States border illegally. Deported five times and due for a sixth, the man found himself sitting on a San Francisco pier in the summer of 2015.
Prosecutors say what happened on that July night was an intentional homicide.
But attorneys for Garcia-Zarate claim their client had fallen victim to a freak accident.
After reaching underneath a bench, Garcia-Zarate felt something stuck to the bottom. The object, wrapped and concealed, was a gun.
A bullet ricocheted off a concrete surface, striking Kate Steinle suddenly. The young woman, who’d been walking with her father and a family friend, died shortly after.
Prosecutors tried to convict Garcia-Zarate on a murder charge, as well as assault with a deadly weapon and another count of manslaughter.
However, the only charge for which the jury submitted a “guilty” verdict was the least severe off all – being a felon in possession of a firearm. The sentence carries a penalty of up to three years in prison.
“The verdict that came in today was not the one we were hoping for,” said Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the San Francisco prosecutor’s office. “The jury came back with a verdict, and we will respect that decision […] This is really about the Steinle family. They showed incredible resolve during this whole process.”
The gun used in the crime had been stolen from an SUV belonging to a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger.
Garcia-Zarate had just been released from prison, wherein he’d been serving a short term for illegal re-entry into the United States. Authorities were seeking to deport him again in connection to a 20-year old charge for selling marijuana.
Steinle’s murder was referred to numerus times by then-candidate and now President Donald Trump, who used the incident to highlight the supposed need for heightened security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
San Francisco – like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and a number of other localities across the nation – is a self-declared “sanctuary city.” Sanctuary cities, as a matter of policy, generally refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Law enforcement don’t ask for the immigration status of detainees, unless they believe that information may be relevant to a crime.
President Trump has lambasted so-called sanctuary cities over their policies since his inauguration, claiming they prioritize political correctness over public safety.
Since Zarate-Garcia’s acquittal, the Justice Department has issued an arrest warrant for the man. Agency officials say the Department is considering filing additional charges against Zarate-Garcia.
However, Zarate-Garcia’s existing retainer, according to The Washington Post, stipulates that he’s to be transferred to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and transported to Texas to await deportation.
Despite the political shroud enveloping the case, Kate Steinle’s brother, Brad, criticized President Trump for “sensationalizing” the case.
“Donald Trump talks about Kate Steinle like he knows her,” Brad Steinle said in a 2015 interview, adding, “I’ve never heard a word from him. I don’t want to be affiliated with someone who doesn’t have the common courtesy to reach out and ask about Kate, and our political views and what we want.”