(From Press Release) – Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who was found not guilty in the death of Kate Steinle, will be represented by renowned San Francisco attorney J. Tony Serra on federal gun charges.
Jurors on Nov. 30 found Garcia Zarate not guilty of murder, involuntary manslaughter, and assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the July 2015 shooting on Pier 14. He was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and is expected to be sentenced to time served on Friday, then released to federal authorities. Serra will attend the sentencing, along with San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
A federal grand jury indicted Garcia Zarate on Dec. 5 for being a felon on possession of a firearm and ammunition and being an “illegally present alien” in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Matt Gonzalez, chief attorney of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office and Garcia Zarate’s lawyer in the state case, said Garcia Zarate “couldn’t be in better hands” with Serra.
“Mr. Garcia Zarate is grateful to have been exonerated of murder, as he has no history of violence. He is also grateful to Tony Serra for taking his case.”
Jurors acquitted Garcia Zarate after a month-long trial in which forensic evidence showed the bullet that struck Steinle was a ricochet fired from 100 feet away. There was no evidence Garcia Zarate stole the gun or brought it to the pier, and he has no history of theft. The firearm belonged to a federal ranger who had left it unsecured in his personal vehicle, which was then burglarized.
“There was clear and overwhelming evidence presented at trial that this tragic shooting was an accident,” Gonzalez said. “The federal government is free to spend more time and resources on this
case, but the facts have not changed. I predict a properly instructed jury will acquit Mr. Garcia Zarate in federal court.”
It is expected that Serra will seek to have the new charges dismissed based on double jeopardy concerns and the Trump Administration’s politically motivated, vindictive prosecution.
(The following is from previous trial coverage in the Vanguard)
The jury did find 45-year-old Jose Ines Garcia Zarate guilty of a lesser charge of a felon in possession of a gun.
The prosecutors argued that Garcia Zarate brought the gun to the pier in order to do harm. They argued that he aimed at Kate Steinle and pulled the trigger. Assistant District Attorney Diana Garcia attempted to make the case that the pistol involved in the shooting could not have fired without a firm pull of the trigger and argued that Mr. Zarate tossed the weapon into the bay and fled the scene.
The case led to a political battle and a war of words.
President Trump in a tweet called it, “A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case! No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration.”
“When jurisdictions choose to return criminal aliens to the streets rather than turning them over to federal immigration authorities, they put the public’s safety at risk,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “San Francisco’s decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle.”
“The untimely death of Kate Steinle was a horrible tragedy. That tragedy was compounded when it was used as political fodder for then-candidate Donald Trump’s anti-immigration agenda,” San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said in a statement. “Despite the unfairly politicized atmosphere surrounding this case, jurors focused on the evidence, which was clear and convincing, and rendered a just verdict.”
Matt Gonzalez, who represented Mr. Zarate in the courtroom said, “There are a number of people that have commented on this case in the last couple of years — the attorney general of the United States, the president and vice president of the United States — let me just remind them that they themselves are under investigation by a special prosecutor in Washington, D.C.
“They may themselves soon avail themselves of the presumption of innocence and beyond a reasonable doubt standard,” Mr. Gonzalez said.