Earlier this month, Garcia Zarate managed to escape any form of real justice for his role in the killing of Kate Steinle while she walked with her father on a pier. Out of all the charges, he was accused of, all that a San Francisco jury could bring themselves to convict him on was a single charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, which carries a maximum sentence of three years. As Garcia Zarate has already spent two years sitting in prison waiting for his trial, it is not likely that he was going to spend any more time in prison.
Thankfully, a federal grand jury indicted Zarate yesterday, claiming he violated state immigration and firearm laws by being an illegal immigrant and a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. If the federal government manages to convict him on these charges, he stands to spend up to ten years in prison, according to a statement released by the Justice Department and U.S. attorney Brian Stretch, along with Jill Snyder of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Though Zarate is currently sitting in state prison on other charges, he may not remain there for long. Due to San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city, they refuse outright to cooperate with federal immigration investigations, and will not turn over criminals, even those convicted of felonies, for deportation by the federal government.
Zarate is a recidivist criminal, with multiple felony convictions (a total of seven) as well as multiple deportations (a total of five thus far, and when he killed Kate Steinle he was wanted on a sixth warrant for deportation). Thanks to San Francisco’s laws, though, he was mostly safe as long as he remained in the city.
Zarate was found with the SIG P239 pistol that ended Kate Steinle’s knife. During the trial, he did not deny that he fired the round that killed her, rather claiming that it was an accident. Ballistics experts testified that the round ricocheted off the ground, hitting and killing Kate Steinle.
However, that account fits the definition of involuntary manslaughter, one of the charges leveled against Garcia Zarate. Involuntary manslaughter is fitting when the death is caused due to reckless conduct that could reasonably be expected to cause grievous injury or death, such as firing a pistol toward people out for a walk. The failure of a liberal San Francisco court to convict Zarate is an underwhelming indictment of the state of the law in San Francisco and California, but hopefully, the federal government can do better.
The failure of San Francisco to convict the unrepentant criminal and repeat felon, as well as their status as a sanctuary city brought forward the debate about illegal immigration, deportation, and the wisdom of Trump’s border wall. Many in the U.S. feel betrayed by the way that local governments undermine our federal laws, and the way that they serve to shield criminals of all stripes, so long as they are illegal immigrants, from justice at the hands of the federal government.
Zarate is hardly the first criminal to be protected from deportation while leading a life of crime thanks to the help of a local government. In Oregon, illegal immigrant Sergio Jose Martinez has been deported a mind-boggling 20 times by the age of thirty. While being sought for deportation again, he was released from prison in Oregon, only to sexually assault, assault, and kidnap two other women within a week. The federal government had asked that Martinez be turned over for deportation, but the local government instead put him out on the street, where he victimized two women in short order.
Now it is up to the federal government to attempt to attain some measure of justice for the family of Kate Steinle. At this point, it seems unlikely that he will ever be convicted for charges stemming from the killing, accidental or not, of Kate, but at least the federal government can put Zarate in jail for up to a decade.
More important is that steps are taken to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. Sanctuary cities and states need to re-examine their conscience and the outcomes of their policies, and if they cannot find it in them to repeal the policies, they can at least consider modifying them so that those convicted of violent crimes can be deported. It wouldn’t be much, but it would serve as a start.