Criminal Justice

Trump criticizes 'disgraceful verdict' in Steinle case while Sessions blasts sanctuary cities

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President Donald Trump/Shutterstock

President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions lashed out after a California jury on Thursday found an immigrant in the country illegally was not guilty of murder in the July 2015 shooting death of Kate Steinle on a San Francisco Bay pier.

Jurors convicted Jose Ines Garcia Zarate on one count of being a felon in possession of a gun, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. He was acquitted on charges of murder, manslaughter and assault with a firearm after defense lawyers argued the shooting was an accident.

Steinle had been killed by a bullet that ricocheted off the concrete. Prosecutors said Garcia Zarate aimed the gun at Steinle, while defense lawyers said the weapon accidentally discharged. According to the defense, Garcia Zarate had found the stolen gun under his seat on the pier and tossed it into the water after it went off because the noise scared him.

Garcia Zarate had been released from the San Francisco County Jail before Steinle was killed, even though federal officials had requested he be held so he could be deported for the sixth time. He had been released after prosecutors dismissed marijuana charges against him.

San Francisco has said it will hold immigrants in the country illegally for immigration authorities if a warrant has been obtained; a warrant is currently in place. Garcia Zarate will get credit for the more than two years he has spent in jail awaiting trial. The maximum sentence is three years in prison.

Trump took to Twitter, report CNN and the New York Times. He criticized the “disgraceful verdict” and renewed his call to “build the wall!”

In a statement, Sessions criticized San Francisco for releasing Garcia Zarate in 2015.

“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,” he said. “San Francisco’s decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle. … 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.”

Defense attorney Francisco Ugarte said he saw the verdict as “a vindication for the rights of immigrants.”

“From day one, this case was used as a means to foment hate, to foment division, to foment a program of mass deportation,” he told the Chronicle.

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