December 6, 2017 / 2:48 AM / 4 months ago

Illegal immigrant hit with federal charges after San Francisco murder acquittal

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An illegal immigrant from Mexico was indicted on federal firearms charges on Tuesday just days after he was acquitted of murdering a San Francisco woman in a case that was raised during the 2016 presidential election.

FILE PHOTO: Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, arrested in connection with the July 1, 2015, shooting of Kate Steinle on a pier in San Francisco is led into the Hall of Justice for his arraignment in San Francisco, California, U.S. on July 7, 2015. REUTERS/Michael Macor/Pool/File Photo

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, 45, was indicted in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on one count each of being a felon in possession of a firearm and for being an illegal immigrant in possession of a firearm, federal prosecutors said.

Garcia Zarate was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges on Thursday in connection with the killing of Kate Steinle, 32, whose death Donald Trump used as a rallying cry against so-called “sanctuary cities” during his presidential campaign.

Garcia Zarate was found guilty on one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The following day federal prosecutors said they would seek his arrest for violating the terms of his supervised release .

A Department of Justice spokesman said that the federal firearms charges would not amount to double jeopardy against Zarate because they differed legally from the state court charges.

Zarate faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on each charge if he is convicted at trial, although federal sentencing guidelines typically call for less time behind bars.

An attorney representing Zarate could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday evening.

Steinle was killed on July 1, 2015 when a gun Zarate was holding discharged, the bullet ricocheting off the ground at a pier frequented by tourists before striking her.

Defense attorneys argued at trial that the gun went off by accident. Prosecutors claimed Zarate had intentionally fired the gun.Before the shooting Garcia Zarate, who had been deported to Mexico five times, had been released from a San Francisco jail despite a request by immigration authorities that he be detained and turned over to them.

President Donald Trump, who had used the Steinle case as a rallying cry against the pro-immigration policies of so-called sanctuary cities during his successful run for the presidency, called the verdict “disgraceful” on Twitter.

In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed “Kate’s Law,” which would increase penalties for illegal immigrants who return to the United States. The bill has not passed the U.S. Senate.

Since taking office as president in January, Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, have sought to cut federal funding for sanctuary cities but have suffered setbacks in court.

Reporting by Eric Beech in Washington, D.C. and Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Mohammad Zargham & Simon Cameron-Moore

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