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California court may have let Kate Steinle’s killer off the hook, but the DOJ doesn’t plan to

Despite being acquitted of his lone criminal conviction for the death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco, the illegal immigrant who shot her is still facing heat on federal charges, the Justice Department says.

In 2015, 32-year-old Kate Steinle was killed by a bullet fired by Jose Garcia Zarate, an illegal immigrant and multiple re-entrant from Mexico. He claims that he found the gun, picked it up, and randomly fired it before throwing it into San Francisco Bay. In 2017, a San Francisco jury acquitted the alien of all murder charges, including involuntary manslaughter.

Zarate was then convicted on felony possession of a firearm. As a seven-time felon and illegal immigrant, the killer wasn’t supposed to have the gun. Last week, California’s First District Court of Appeal threw out that conviction as well.

“It is undisputed that defendant was holding the gun when it fired. But that fact alone does not establish he possessed the gun for more than a moment. To possess the gun, defendant had to know he was holding it,” reads the outlandish ruling.

“So, Zarate admitted to firing the gun, but somehow it doesn’t count as possession because the jury could not have known that the defendant knew he was holding it?” CR’s Daniel Horowitz wrote about the court decision. “Wrap your brain around that display of judicial gymnastics for a moment.”

But Zarate still faces federal charges, and the DOJ doesn’t plan to let him skate, a Tuesday afternoon statement clarified.

“The state-court ruling has no legal effect on the federal prosecution, which will continue,” reads a statement from David Anderson, United States attorney for the Northern District of California. “A repeatedly deported, previously convicted felon has no right to possess a firearm under federal law, even if California extends him sanctuary.”

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