Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez addresses the media following the reading of the trial verdict in the killing of Kate Steinle on Nov. 30 at the Hall of Justice. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez addresses the media following the reading of the trial verdict in the killing of Kate Steinle on Nov. 30 at the Hall of Justice. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Undocumented immigrant to appear for sentencing in Kate Steinle trial

The undocumented Mexican immigrant acquitted of murder and manslaughter in the controversial death of 32-year-old Kate Steinle is due back in San Francisco Superior Court this week for a sentencing hearing.

Judge Samuel K. Feng is scheduled to sentence 45-year-old Jose Ines Garcia Zarate on Friday for the only conviction jurors returned against the defendant for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The jury found Garcia Zarate not guilty of all other charges, including first-degree murder, in a Nov. 30 decision that outraged President Donald Trump and right-wing media.

Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez said after trial that the maximum sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm is less than the time Garcia Zarate has already served in County Jail since the shooting.

Garcia Zarate shot Steinle on July 1, 2015. The bullet ricocheted off Pier 14 and tumbled through the air for 78 feet before striking Steinle in the back while she walked with her father.

Gonzalez claimed the shooting was an accident that happened when Garcia Zarate found the gun wrapped in a rag on the pier. Prosecutor Diana Garcia failed to prove counts of murder, manslaughter and assault with a semi-automatic firearm beyond a reasonable doubt.

But Garcia Zarate is not expected to walk free.

Garcia Zarate must next face two charges in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California for allegedly being a felon in possession of a firearm and being an undocumented immigrant in possession of a firearm.

There is also a federal warrant out for his arrest that San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy said she would honor by notifying the U.S. Marshal when Garcia Zarate is eligible for release.

On Friday, Feng is also set to decide whether Garcia Zarate will be retried for being a felon in possession of a firearm after the defense filed a motion for a new trial on Dec. 14.

In the filing, Gonzalez argued Feng should have instructed the jury differently on the gun possession charge.

Under a jury instruction called momentary possession, a defendant could be found not guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm if they are holding the weapon to discard it.

Garcia Zarate threw the gun off the pier moments after the shooting.

If the motion for a new trial fails, Gonzalez plans to appeal the verdict.

For being a felon in possession of a firearm, Feng could sentence Garcia Zarate to six months, 12 months or three years of incarceration.

Untitled-1

Read more criminal justice news on the Crime Ink page in print. Follow us on Twitter: @sfcrimeinkCrime

Just Posted

The Hotel Whitcomb on Market Street was one of many hotels that took in homeless people as part of The City’s shelter-in-place hotel program during the pandemic.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Closing hotels could disconnect hundreds from critical health care services

‘That baseline of humanity and dignity goes a long way’

Pachama, a Bay Area startup, is using technology to study forests and harness the carbon-consuming power of trees. (Courtesy Agustina Perretta/Pachama)
Golden Gate Park visitors may take a survey about options regarding private car access on John F. Kennedy Drive, which has been the subject of controvers during the pandemic. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Your chance to weigh in: Should JFK remain closed to cars?

Host of mobility improvements for Golden Gate Park proposed

Dreamforce returned to San Francisco in person this week – but with a tiny sliver of past attendance. (Courtesy Salesforce)
Dreamforce returns with hundreds on hand, down from 170,000 in the past

High hopes for a larger Salesforce conference shriveled during the summer

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said retail thefts in The City are underreported crimes. (Daniel Montes/Bay City News)
S.F. unveils initiative to tackle rise in retail thefts

Incidents are not victimless crimes, mayor says

Most Read