Sessions blames sanctuary city policy for Steinle death following verdict

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate shown being led into the Hall of Justice for his arraignment in San Francisco California

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate has some prior felony convictions mostly for illegal re-entry into the US and then additionally some - what would today be considered low-level drug crimes, at least in San Francisco, Calif.

Garcia Zarate has prior convictions for a drug charge and for re-entering the country after deportation.

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter said Steinle "would still be alive if we had a wall", referring to President Donald Trump's call for the construction of a border wall between the USA and Mexico.

Before the shooting, the San Francisco sheriff's department had released him from jail despite a federal immigration request to detain him for deportation. They say San Francisco's status as a "sanctuary city" limits their cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities. But Garcia Zarate's defense attorney said the shooting was accidental and the bullet ricocheted off the ground and traveled about 80 feet before hitting Steinle. "It was used to catapult a presidency along that philosophy of hate of others", defense attorney Francisco Ugarte said after the verdict. "Nothing about (Garcia Zarate's) ethnicity or immigration status was relevant in this case".

Garcia Zarate was found guilty of illegal firearms possession, which carries a sentence of 16 months to three years. Prosecutors said he meant to shoot and kill her. "I urge the leaders of the nation's communities to reflect on the outcome of this case and consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement officers".

Zarate had claimed he found the gun used in the shooting wrapped in a T-shirt under a bench and that it went off accidentally, The Associated Press reported.


"I'm relieved", Public Defender Jeff Adachi said after the verdict reading, adding that evidence in the case played a big role in the not-guilty verdict.

San Francisco Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia said during the trial that she didn't know why Garcia Zarate fired the weapon, but he created a risk of death by bringing the firearm to the pier and twirling around on a chair for at least 20 minutes before he fired.

Languishing in seventh behind his Republican competitors at the time, just two weeks into his campaign, Trump used Garcia Zarate's past-he had been deported from the USA five times and had seven felony convictions, including drug charges-as proof of his campaign's anti-immigrant operating thesis.

Prosecutors said the verdict was not what they had hoped for, but they respect the decision.

Trump also mentioned Steinle in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention after winning the Republican presidential nomination.

Jim Steinle, left, father of Kate Steinle, walks toward the courtroom at the San Francisco Hall of Justice on October 23, 2017. But it's unlikely to have enough votes to pass the Senate, which struggled with Kate's Law previous year.

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