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Undocumented man to be arraigned in federal court after acquittal in Kate Steinle trial

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Defense attorneys for Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, Matt Gonzalez, left, and Tony Serra enter the courtroom at the Hall of Justice on Friday. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

An undocumented immigrant is expected to have his first day in federal court today after his acquittal on murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Kate Steinle drew scorn from President Donald Trump.

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, a 45-year-old homeless man from Mexico, is scheduled to be arraigned before Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James at the Phillip Burton Federal Building on two illegal gun possession charges.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged Garcia Zarate with being a felon in possession of a firearm and being an undocumented immigrant in possession of a firearm Dec. 5, 2017. The charges came less than a week after a San Francisco Superior Court jury returned the not guilty verdicts that Trump called “disgraceful.”

Defense attorneys say Garcia Zarate accidentally fired a bullet that ricocheted off Pier 14 and struck Steinle on July 1, 2015. Since then, Trump has used the shooting to call for a crackdown on sanctuary cities and a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

J. Tony Serra, a famed San Francisco defense attorney who is representing Garcia Zarate in federal court, called the prosecution “vindictive” and “retaliatory.” Serra plans to file motions to dismiss the charges.

Garcia Zarate is also in court Monday for a preliminary revocation hearing.

Federal prosecutors filed a motion to revoke his probation Dec. 1, 2017 out of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, according to court records.

In March 2015, Garcia Zarate was transferred from federal prison to San Francisco County Jail to face a 20-year-old marijuana case after serving a sentence for illegal re-entry to the U.S.

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department released him in April 2015, less than three months before the shooting, after the District Attorney’s Office declined to charge the case.

Upon release, Garcia Zarate was to be on probation for three years from his sentence out of Texas for illegal re-entry.

Ryan Kirk, a supervising U.S. Probation Officer, said in court records that Garcia Zarate violated his probation when he committed the felony of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Kirk recommended Garcia Zarate be sentenced to up to two years in prison and three years of supervised release.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria will preside over the case after arraignment. In 2014, Chhabria became the first Indian American federal judge to be confirmed in California. He was appointed by President Barack Obama.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Hallie Mitchell Hoffman and Shiao Lee are prosecuting the federal case.

U.S. Marshals took custody of Garcia Zarate last Friday after he was sentenced to time served for being a felon in possession of a firearm in the state case. The conviction was the only decision jurors returned against Garcia Zarate Nov. 30.

It’s unclear where Garcia Zarate is being held in custody.


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