SAN FRANCISCO – On December 5, 2017, a federal grand jury indicted Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, and for being an illegally present alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
According to the indictment, on July 1, 2015, Garcia-Zarate, a citizen of Mexico who reportedly is 48 years old, possessed a semi-automatic pistol and multiple rounds of ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (felon in possession of a firearm) and 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(5) (unlawfully present alien in possession of a firearm). As the government alleged in a public filing in this case, on July 1, 2015, Garcia-Zarate was on Pier 14 on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. Also on the pier were 31-year old Kathryn Steinle, her father James Steinle, and Frances “Kaye” Williams, a family friend. The three were sightseeing. At approximately 6:30 p.m., Garcia-Zarate possessed and fired a semi-automatic pistol. The bullet fired by Garcia-Zarate hit Kathryn Steinle in the back and killed her. At the time of the shooting, Garcia-Zarate was a felon, an illegal alien, and was on federal supervised release from a prior conviction in 2011 in the Western District of Texas.
On November 30, 2017, a jury in San Francisco county convicted Garcia-Zarate of being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of California state law. On August 30, 2019, the California state Courts of Appeal overturned Garcia-Zarate’s state conviction based on the failure of the state trial court to instruct the jury on the state affirmative defense of momentary possession.
“The state-court ruling has no legal effect on the federal prosecution, which will continue,” stated United States Attorney David Anderson. “A repeatedly deported, previously convicted felon has no right to possess a firearm under federal law, even if California extends him sanctuary.”
An indictment merely alleges that a crime has been committed and Garcia-Zarate, like all defendants, is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Garcia-Zarate currently is in federal custody awaiting trial on these charges. If convicted of either violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), Garcia-Zarate faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison. However, any sentence will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.