Immigrant Cleared in San Francisco Pier Shooting Remains Jailed for Now

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The undocumented immigrant acquitted of murder in the 2015 shooting of a woman on a San Francisco pier will remain locked up for now, as he fights new federal weapons charges.

After a state jury in San Francisco found Jose Ines Garcia-Zarate not guilty of murdering 32-year-old Kate Steinle, federal prosecutors indicted the Mexican native on two federal charges: being a felon in possession of a firearm and being an illegally present alien in possession of a firearm.

Garcia-Zarate, 47, made his initial appearance in federal court Monday, three days after he was sentenced to time served for being a felon in possession of a firearm, a separate state charge and the only count for which he was found guilty at the end of the five-week murder trial in November.

Civil rights attorney Tony Serra speaks to reporters after his client Jose Ines Garcia-Zarate made an initial appearance on federal weapons charges Jan. 8. (Nicholas Iovino/CNS)

On Monday, Garcia-Zarate’s attorney, famed civil rights lawyer Tony Serra, said his client chose not to seek bail due to an outstanding warrant for a parole violation in Texas. Serra said Garcia-Zarate wants to resolve the federal case in San Francisco before he gets sent back to Texas on the warrant.

Serra called the decision to press federal weapons charges against his client politically motivated, adding he would move to dismiss the case for vindictive prosecution and double jeopardy.

“We are going to be forceful and dogmatic in bringing the Trump administration into this litigation for both motions,” Serra said.

Finding evidence that the Trump administration guided the decision to press charges, or proof of collusion between state and federal prosecutors, will bolster the defendant’s case, Serra said.

The defense will receive its first batch of discovery from the prosecution this week, but Serra said he doesn’t expect to find any helpful evidence in that first disclosure of evidence.

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, right, is led into the courtroom by San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, left, and Assistant District Attorney Diana Garciaor, center, for his arraignment at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco. (Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool, File)

“They’re not going to give me anything collusive,” Serra said. “I’ll have to fight for that.”

During the trial last fall, Garcia-Zarate’s public defenders argued the shooting was accidental, that the gun went off unintentionally after Garcia-Zarate found it wrapped in a rag beneath a bench. The bullet ricocheted off the concrete walkway before hitting Steinle in the back.

Steinle’s death set off a national debate over sanctuary city policies, as Garcia-Zarate had been released from a San Francisco jail months before the shooting despite a request from immigration authorities to hold him for deportation.

President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions have cited Steinle’s death in support of their campaign to crack down on illegal immigration and sanctuary cities.

During Monday’s hearing, Garcia-Zarate gave the judge a different name and age: Juan Jose Dominguez de la Parra, 54. That is alias Garcia-Zarate used when he was arrested in Texas, according to Serra.

Garcia-Zarate is wanted in Texas on suspicion of failing to report to a parole office within 72 hours after he was released from jail for illegally re-entering the United States after deportation. He faces an additional two-year prison sentence if convicted in Texas.

Garcia-Zarate is expected to enter a plea on the federal weapons charges at a hearing in San Francisco on Feb. 13. He faces a 10-year maximum prison sentence for each.

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