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Sentence for shooter in Steinle case won’t end US legal odyssey | New

Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate, a Mexican national who fired the shot that killed Pleasanton native Kate Steinle on Pier 14 in 2015, was sentenced to time served Monday, but that won’t end his long journey through the American justice system.

Citing Garcia-Zarate’s history of mental illness and the harsh conditions of his incarceration, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria found that seven years of state and federal incarceration was punishment enough for both. federal weapons offenses to which Garcia-Zarate pleaded guilty in March.

Chhabria’s sentence, however, does not resolve the charges Garcia-Zarate faces in federal court in West Texas for violating the terms of his supervised release following his conviction for illegal re-entry into the United States after his expulsion.

Garcia-Zarate’s attorneys had hoped that some of the time spent in San Francisco might be available to apply against time to be served in this proceeding, but that appears to be in jeopardy in light of Chhabria’s decision.

Either way, when West Texas Time is purged, Garcia-Zarate will be deported to Mexico.

The case of Garcia-Zarate has already had many twists and turns.

As widely reported, in 2015 Garcia-Zarate found a stolen semi-automatic weapon wrapped in a bundle of rags near the chair he was sitting in at Pier 14.

Steinle, an Amador Valley High School alumna who lived in San Francisco, was on the pier with her father and a family friend that fateful day when they drove past Garcia-Zarate. As she was 90 feet on the pier, a shot was fired from the gun he was holding, hitting her in the back and killing her.

There were widely differing views on how the shooting unfolded. According to Garcia-Zarate’s attorney, the gun accidentally discharged and Steinle’s death was a tragic accident.

Prosecutors disagreed, and they charged Garcia-Zarate with first- and second-degree murder, manslaughter, assault with a semi-automatic weapon, and a lesser felony.

Garcia-Zarate had been deported five times before the murder, and his case gained national attention after Donald Trump used him to bolster his 2016 presidential campaign positions around immigration and the border wall.

Garcia-Zarate was first tried in state court proceedings initiated by the San Francisco prosecutor.

On November 30, 2017, Garcia-Zarate was acquitted of homicide, manslaughter, and assault charges, but convicted of the lesser offense of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

He was later indicted by a federal grand jury in December 2017 on federal weapons charges.

On appeal of the conviction under state law, the state appeals court overturned the conviction.

Federal proceedings on the weapons charges were unaffected by the state court decision and continued after Garcia-Zarate was released from state court custody.

However, in 2020, on the eve of the trial in federal court, Chhabria ordered that Garcia-Zarate be evaluated to determine if he “suffered from a mental illness or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist adequately in his defence.”

On October 19, 2020, following an evaluation by court-appointed psychiatrists, the judge determined that Garcia-Zarate was unfit to stand trial.

Doctors testified that Garcia-Zarate suffered from schizophrenia. The judge said that, based on his own observation, Garcia-Zarate’s “speech and responses to questions were often off topic or nonsensical, and he demonstrated no understanding of the charges against him.”

The judge noted that Garcia-Zarate had indicated that he wanted to plead guilty, but the judge also concluded that he lacked jurisdiction to make that decision “because he does not have sufficient mental capacity to waive constitutional rights, make a reasoned choice between the alternatives, and understand the nature and consequences of a guilty plea.”

The judge said doctors believed it was possible Garcia-Zarate could improve if he was treated with antipsychotic medication. He then ordered that Garcia-Zarate receive this treatment.

In June 2021, the Bureau of Prisons informed the judge that “he had restored the defendant’s capacity”. However, in a re-arraignment in August 2021, the judge ordered a new competency assessment due to new concerns over whether Garcia-Zarate was competent and also whether or not he was taking his medication.

On February 16 of this year, the judge reported that after being reinstated in the Bureau of Prisons, Garcia-Zarate had been transferred to Santa Rita prison to be held there pending trial. However, Garcia-Zarate did not receive his medication at this facility and was later determined by doctors to be no longer competent.

Garcia-Zarate was later transferred to Marin County Jail where he received his medication and again recovered.

In March, Chhabria held a hearing to consider Garcia-Zarate’s stated desire to change his plea. At the hearing, Garcia-Zarate pleaded guilty to both weapons charges, which led to sentencing on Monday.

Federal sentencing guidelines suggested a sentence of 41 to 51 months, far less than the seven years Garcia-Zarate had already served in state and federal custody. However, the probation report recommended 120 months, a so-called “upward deviation” from the guidelines.

Garcia-Zarate’s lawyers argued, among other things, that the accused was in an unstable condition at the time of the murder. After the shooting, he was found “casually walking around and looking through trash cans.”

According to the lawyers, Garcia-Zarate “was malnourished, wearing two extremely oversized jeans held up by a single shoelace, a pair of oversized shoes, a sock, an extremely oversized jacket, a hoodie and a t-shirt. The only other object he had on him, or anywhere else, was a small blue fragment of a broken lighter in his pocket.”

Chhabria sentenced Garcia-Zarate to time served followed by a three-year period of probation.

Proceedings in federal court in West Texas and possible deportation are expected to follow.