The illegal immigrant accused in the shooting death of Kate Steinle is charging the federal government with “vindictive prosecution” and collusion with city and state authorities, and using President Trump’s tweets and public statements by him and his attorney general to make his case.
In a filing this week in federal court in San Francisco, lawyers for Jose Garcia-Zarate demanded that that the federal government hand over its communications with local law enforcement agencies — the San Francisco police, district attorney’s office and sheriff’s office — to let him prove collusion and double jeopardy.
Attorney J. Tony Serra accused Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions of using his client as a political punching bag and said their words suggest that Mr. Garcia-Zarate is being unjustly prosecuted.
“This case was highly publicized, both locally and nationally,” he wrote in the motion filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California.
“Almost immediately after the death of Ms. Steinle, then presidential candidate Donald Trump began to use Mr. Garcia-Zarate as the symbol of the dangers of illegal immigrants and the need for a wall between the United States and Mexico,” his filing says.
The lawyer noted that Mr. Trump’s campaign continued after his client’s trial on state murder charges.
“Immediately after Mr. Garcia-Zarate was acquitted of the murder and assault allegations, President Trump maligned the verdict on Twitter, stating: ‘A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case! No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration,’” the filing reads.
In his state trial, Mr. Garcia-Zarate was found not guilty of murder and assault, but guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
He was sentenced to three years imprisonment, but promptly released for time served.
In addition to Mr. Trump’s criticisms, Mr. Serra’s filing noted that Mr. Sessions appeared on Fox News and said “the federal government and President Trump are crystal clear: we are doing everything possible to get these [sanctuary] cities to reverse these policies.”
He said the Justice Department “is working right now to bring any charges that are appropriate” against Mr. Garcia-Zarate and “he is going to face every charge that is proper to be brought against him.”
The lawyer’s filing claims that the federal charges being brought against his client — being a felon in possession of a firearms and an illegal immigrant in possession of a firearm — five days after the state verdict are essentially the same conduct as the California charges.
The federal government has filed many charges in cases of state-court acquittals, complete with words from top federal officials criticizing the state verdict — for example, the four Los Angeles cops who beat Rodney King and numerous lynchings by Southern racists in the civil-rights era.
According to Mr. Serra’s filing, the charges are double jeopardy and being filed by the federal government purely from vindictiveness to satisfy a political vendetta of Mr. Garcia-Zarate.
The filing is titled on every page “Garcia-Zarate Motion to Compel Discovery for Vindictive Prosecution and Violation of Double Jeopardy.”
“The true federal interest in pursuing this prosecution is to punish and make an example out of Mr. Garcia-Zarate for his high-profile acquittal in state court. This prosecution seeks to demonstrate to any high-profile defendant, especially one that is an undocumented immigrant, that their successful exercise of due process rights will not be respected and will result in the heavy hammer of a federal prosecution,” the lawyer concludes.