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After Seven Years, Immigrant To Be Freed in Pier Murder Cited by Trump

An undocumented immigrant acquitted of murder in the 2015 San Francisco shooting death of Kate Steinle was sentenced to time served by a federal judge for felony gun possession. Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate has been in custody since his arrest nearly seven years ago for the shooting death of Steinle on a pier, reports Courthouse News Service. Steinle, who walking along the pier with her father, was shot with a .40-caliber Sig Sauer handgun that had been stolen from an off-duty federal agent’s vehicle days before. Garcia-Zarate’s public defenders said he found the gun wrapped in a rag under a seat at the pier, and that it discharged when he picked it up. The bullet ricocheted off the pavement and hit Steinle, who died in her father’s arms.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria told Garcia-Zarate’s lawyers on Monday there was “very little evidence to support that theory,” adding, “I think it was perhaps enough to create reasonable doubt or maybe the jury was furious at [then-District Attorney] George Gascon for charging the defendant with first degree murder when it was maybe not appropriate." The question for sentencing, Chhabria said, was whether Garcia-Zarate was subjectively aware of the riskiness of his behavior. “Obviously there is a lot of evidence in the record that Mr. Garcia-Zarate was not aware of much at the time,” he said. He had already been deported five times to his birth country of Mexico and was facing a sixth removal proceeding for a parole violation in Texas. Steinle’s death became a rallying cry for supporters of tougher immigration enforcement, including then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, who cited her death in his 2016 Republican National Convention speech. Less than a week after a state jury acquitted Garcia-Zararte of murder, prosecutors filed federal charges against him for being a felon and an unauthorized immigrant in possession of a firearm.


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