Steinle defendant has state gun conviction thrown out, still faces federal charges

Appellate court: SF judge failed to instruct jurors on 'momentary possession'

An undocumented Mexican immigrant who held the gun that killed Pleasanton native Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier four years ago still faces two federal gun charges, even though a California appeals court has overturned his state gun possession conviction.

Jose Ines Garcia-Zarate, 48, held the pistol from which a bullet fired, ricocheted and struck Steinle in the back as she walked with her father and a family friend on Pier 14 on The Embarcadero in San Francisco on July 1, 2015.

Steinle, an Amador Valley High School alum who was living in San Francisco at the time, was pronounced dead at San Francisco General Hospital later that day. She was 32.

Garcia-Zarate has claimed that the shooting was an accident and that he found the gun covered in rags beneath his chair, picked it up briefly and threw it into the bay when it fired and he realized it was a gun.

State prosecutors have contended he intentionally pulled the trigger.

Garcia-Zarate is charged in federal court in San Francisco with two counts of being an ex-felon in possession of a gun and an undocumented person in possession of a gun.

He is scheduled to go on trial on those charges in the court of U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria on Jan. 13, following jury selection beginning on Jan. 7.

But the minutes of a status conference held before Chhabria on Aug. 27 suggest that a plea bargain may be under negotiation. The minutes say, "The parties are working towards a resolution," but say both sides were prepared to set a trial date.

Each of the two federal counts carries a possible maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if Garcia-Zarate is convicted.

In the separate state case, a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeal on Aug. 30 overturned Garcia-Zarate's sole conviction in a 2017 San Francisco Superior Court trial.

The conviction was for a state charge of being an ex-felon in possession of a gun. The jury acquitted him of additional charges of murder, manslaughter and assault with a gun.

The appeals court said the trial judge failed to instruct jurors that the doctrine of momentary possession -- or holding an illegal item for just a moment before disposing of it -- could be a defense against the gun possession charge.

Justice Sandra Margulies wrote for the court, "We conclude it is reasonably probable at least one juror may have reached a different conclusion if the jury had been instructed on the momentary possession charge."

Garcia-Zarate was sentenced for the gun conviction in January 2018 to the 2-1/2 years already served while awaiting trial, and was then taken into federal custody to face the U.S. charges.

U.S. Attorney Dave Anderson said in a statement this week, "The state (appeals) court ruling has no legal effect on the federal prosecution, which will continue. A repeatedly deported, previously convicted felon has no right to possess a firearm under federal law, even if California extends him sanctuary."

Other allegations are that Garcia-Zarate was previously deported five times following convictions for illegal reentry and drug crimes.

He was released from San Francisco jail in April 2015 after a marijuana-selling charge was dropped. Federal authorities were not notified because of San Francisco's sanctuary city policy limiting communication between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials.

The gun with which Steinle was killed was stolen four days earlier from the SUV of an off-duty U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon could retry Garcia-Zarate on the state gun charge. Spokespersons for his office were not available for comment this week.

— Bay City News Service

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19 people like this
Posted by Fedup
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Sep 6, 2019 at 11:53 am

This takes SF as a sanctuary city to a new level. Embarrassing and outrageous. I feel for the Steinle family and hopefully they get the justice that their beautiful Kate deserves on the Federal level.

14 people like this
Posted by James Michael
a resident of Val Vista
on Sep 6, 2019 at 12:09 pm

James Michael is a registered user.

That is bad, but it shouldn't really be that surprising considering the collapse of the judicial system in the Bay Area. The Ghost Ship Warehouse fire just resulted in one acquittal and one hung jury, and this is after they both had already pleaded guilty to the manslaughter previously only to have it thrown out by a "judge" for lenient sentences after protests. And now innocent?

Nobody is at fault, just society. How bizarre.

7 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Sep 6, 2019 at 3:13 pm

Sounds like a tragic accident to me.

But this is Pleasanton. If it was a white kid that picked it up and it went off, we'd all just shake our heads at the cruelty of fate. But this is Pleasanton, and it was an illegal alien, so everyone here wants blood.

We're a pool of MAGA morons in the bay area.

10 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Sep 6, 2019 at 3:18 pm

The guy who belongs in jail is that BLM officer who left his gun in his car in the city.

15 people like this
Posted by Kiko
a resident of Val Vista
on Sep 6, 2019 at 3:55 pm

Bill is such a funny guy. Make Bill sane again.

23 people like this
Posted by James Michael
a resident of Val Vista
on Sep 6, 2019 at 4:39 pm

James Michael is a registered user.

Well first of all,Bill, the Bay Area is certainly not a MAGA pool, not a pond, not even a bathtub of MAGA morons in the Bay Area.
And secondly, he pulled the trigger...he killed someone. May not have been murder in the first, but it certainly was manslaughter.
And in the original story, which was suppressed in court, before he shot Kate Steinle he was shooting at seals/sealions. Now if he had killed a seal he surely would have been convicted.
And his lawyer said he didn't know it was a gun ???

The worst part of all this is that the family has to relive it and can't even sue the city of SF because some liberal judge ruled it so. This is not justice.

3 people like this
Posted by Is it true he was shooting ast seals?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2019 at 9:42 am

Wow- That would change a lot!

8 people like this
Posted by dknute
a resident of Golden Eagle
on Sep 9, 2019 at 10:06 am

dknute is a registered user.

Nothing will change. Not in San Francisco. Not in California. Not until the politics in this state become Sane. It is insane to consider that this Killing could be accidental to the point of releasing again, someone who is now in the country illegally, has been deported on several occasions, only to commit yet another unpunished crime. Now, the Feds have their turn, and at further expense, time, and suffering to a family, already undergoing uncommon grief, we will continue down this path of legal battles, where only the attorneys win. The loser has already been chosen. Take your pick. The Steinle family, USA, tax paying citizens, The Founding Fathers and The Constitution.
To continue down this sure path to destruction is our choice. To effect Change, Vote to Change the System.

12 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Sep 9, 2019 at 10:25 am

DKHSK is a registered user.


"But this is Pleasanton. If it was a white kid that picked it up and it went off, we'd all just shake our heads at the cruelty of fate. But this is Pleasanton, and it was an illegal alien, so everyone here wants blood."


Go peddle your liberal racism somewhere else and stop putting thoughts and words in "white" people heads.

I notice how white liberals always attribute racism to OTHER white people. The fact of the matter is if you live here, you purposely chose to live here for a number of reasons, one of those reasons is to be around people who share your cultural background.

If you don't like it here, Bill, go move to Oakland and be with people who you obviously think need your protection.

Put your money where your mouth is.


13 people like this
Posted by Pablo
a resident of Dublin
on Sep 9, 2019 at 11:22 am

Why do today’s liberals always lower the conversation to name calling? Bill this means you! Today’s liberal means something very different than it did 20 years ago. As for the Steinle case and many others that involve people here illegally, the point is that they shouldn’t even be here. Especially after being deported several times! That’s it plain and simple! This wasn’t just some tragic accident. It never should have happened. We all agree legal immigration is a good thing! Illegal immigration is not.

2 people like this
Posted by James Michael
a resident of Val Vista
on Sep 9, 2019 at 11:58 am

James Michael is a registered user.

To paraphrase Bill O. TAKE YOUR STATE BACK !!

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