Mexican man acquitted of murder wants federal case thrown out over Trump tweets

SAN FRANCISCO -- The illegal immigrant who killed Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier, but was acquitted of murder, is now suing the federal government. His lawyers say additional charges against him are "vindictive."

Juan Garcia Zarate was acquitted in November by a California jury for the 2015 murder of 32-year old Kate Steinle. He had already been deported back to Mexico five times when Steinle was shot with a stolen gun.

San Francisco Pier Shooting

In this July 7, 2015 file photo, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, right, is led into the courtroom for his arraignment in San Francisco.

Michael Macor / AP

Steinle's death became prominent in President Trump's campaign, cited often as proof of the need to get tough on immigration.

When Garcia Zarate was found not guilty of murder, Mr. Trump called it a "a disgraceful verdict…no wonder the people of our country are so angry with illegal immigration."

Now Garcia Zarate is facing new federal gun possession charges but his attorneys are using the president's tweets to argue they should be dismissed. Garcia Zarate's defense attorney Tony Serra seized on them as evidence the new federal charges are vindictive.

"It's really a very sad situation in the judicial process when a chief executive at any level orchestrates a, in our opinion, a double jeopardy litigation merely to conform with their political platform," Serra said.

In state court, attorneys successfully argued the shooting was accidental. Garcia Zarate was found guilty only of illegal possession of a firearm, the same charge he now faces in federal court.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.