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Man acquitted of 2015 murder pleads guilty to gun charges

Posted at 2:01 PM, Mar 15, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO — The Department of Justice said Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, acquitted of murder in the 2015 fatal shooting of Kate Steinle while she walked on a crowded California pier with her father and friend, pled guilty to federal gun charges on Monday.

Federal prosecutors said Garcia Zarate was acquitted of murder in San Francisco Superior Court in November 2017.

Following his acquittal, a federal grand jury indicted him in December 2017 for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and an illegally present alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

But in 2019, a state appeals court overturned the conviction, stating that the trial judge did not instruct the jury that the doctrine of momentary possession, holding an illegal item for just a moment before disposing of it, could be a defense against the gun possession charge, the news release stated.

In January 2020, the court ordered Garcia Zarate to be evaluated for mental competency to stand trial. Federal prosecutors said that after competency proceedings occurring throughout 2020 and 2021, a change of plea hearing was set for Monday.

At Monday's hearing, Garcia Zarate acknowledged that he was on the pier in 2015 and possessed a gun with eight rounds.

"He admitted he knew he was an alien that was unlawfully and illegally in the United States at the time and that he had previously been convicted of a felony, including the felony of Illegal Re-Entry After Deportation for which he spent more than a year in federal prison," the news release said.

Garcia Zarate’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 6 at 1 p.m. in San Francisco.

He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.