President Donald Trump, who often brought up the death of Kate Steinle during his campaign, tweeted Thursday night that the acquittal of the undocumented immigrant who shot her was a “disgraceful verdict.”
“No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration,” the President tweeted hours after a jury acquitted Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who had been deported five times before the killing of Steinle in 2015.
Trump often cited Steinle’s death on a San Francisco pier during his presidential run as an example of the dangers of sanctuary cities.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions condemned San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy in the wake of a not-guilty verdict.
Sessions has been critical of sanctuary cities during his tenure as attorney general, and several cities have pursed legal action against the Department of Justice in response.
A jury acquitted Garcia Zarate of murder and involuntary manslaughter charges, as well as assault with a firearm. Garcia Zarate was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, however. His attorneys claimed the shooting was accidental.
The US attorney general pushed back after the acquittal, calling Steinle’s death “preventable” and blaming the sanctuary city policy.
“San Francisco’s decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle,” Sessions said in a statement.
“While the State of California sought a murder charge for the man who caused Ms. Steinle’s death — a man who would not have been on the streets of San Francisco if the city simply honored an ICE detainer — the people ultimately convicted him of being a felon in possession of a firearm,” Sessions said.
Steinle’s story has been prominent in Republicans’ push for immigration reform — including a bill passed by the House this summer titled “Kate’s Law,” which creates harsher punishments for illegal re-entry into the US.
“The Department of Justice will continue to ensure that all jurisdictions place the safety and security of their communities above the convenience of criminal aliens,” Sessions said in Thursday’s statement. “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.”
Speaking after the verdict, Garcia Zarate’s chief defense attorney, Matt Gonzalez, noted not only Sessions’ previous comments on the case but also sharply warned Trump and others in his administration against commenting on the outcome, equating the case to the investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russians.
“For those who might criticize the verdict, there are a number of people that have commented on this case in the last couple years, the attorney general of the United States, the President and the Vice President of the United States (Mike Pence),” Gonzalez said, “let me just remind them that they are themselves under investigation by a special prosecutor in Washington DC, and they may themselves, soon avail themselves of the presumptions of innocence and the beyond a reasonable doubt standard and so I would ask them to reflect on that before they comment or disparage the result in this case.”
In June, the House of Representatives passed “Kate’s Law,” a measure named for the victim that would increase maximum prison penalties for immigrants caught repeatedly entering the United States illegally. But it’s unlikely to have enough votes to pass the Senate, which struggled with Kate’s Law last year.