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Trump attacks jury's acquittal in Kathryn Steinle case; Justice Department considers new charges

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was accused of killing 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco. (Dec. 1, 2017)

President Trump took to Twitter on Friday to attack a jury’s acquittal of a man in this country illegally who had been accused of killing a woman in San Francisco, a case the president made a centerpiece of his campaign against illegal immigration.

In a series of tweets, the president called the San Francisco jury’s decision a “disgraceful verdict.”

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“The Kate Steinle killer came back and back over the weakly protected Obama border, always committing crimes and being violent, and yet this info was not used in court. His exoneration is a complete travesty of justice. BUILD THE WALL!,” he also wrote.

Steinle was shot in the back in July 2015 as she walked with her father on Pier 14, in the heart of the city’s tourist district.

Less than an hour later, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, a seven-time felon who had been deported from the U.S. to Mexico numerous times, was arrested about a mile away and soon charged in the killing.

The trial hinged on whether jurors believed the killing was intentional or accidental, as the defense asserted.

Prosecutors had given the jury the option to convict Garcia Zarate of first- or second-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter.

His defense argued that the weapon went off accidentally in the defendant’s hands. (A few days before the shooting, the gun had been stolen nearby from a federal ranger’s parked car, but Garcia Zarate, who said he had found the gun, was not charged with that crime.)

During the trial, Garcia Zarate’s attorneys called an expert who testified that it was an unintentional ricochet shot that killed Steinle.

The prosecutor presented evidence that the pistol that killed Steinle required a firm pull of the trigger to fire and that Garcia Zarate threw the firearm into San Francisco Bay after Steinle fell, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. A crime-scene inspector also testified that the defendant had to have aimed the gun at Steinle for the bullet to follow the path it did.

“It was a verdict we were not hoping for,” San Francisco district attorney’s spokesman Alex Bastian said. “I know that both sides fought very hard, but again, the jurors are the ones who make a determination on a case, and we will respect that decision.”

On Friday, a U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, said federal prosecutors were considering possible charges against Garcia Zarate related to his reentry into the U.S.

“We’re looking at every option and we will prosecute this to the fullest extent of the law because these cases are tragic and entirely preventable,” Flores told Fox News.

During the presidential campaign, Trump often cited the case to show the need for a crackdown on illegal immigration. At one point, he referred to Garcia Zarate “this animal” who “shot that wonderful, that beautiful, woman in San Francisco.”

On Friday morning Trump predicted political ramifications for the jury’s ruling.

“The jury was not told the killer of Kate was a 7 time felon. The Schumer/Pelosi Democrats are so weak on Crime that they will pay a big price in the 2018 and 2020 Elections.”

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