Following the overturned state firearm conviction of illegal immigrant Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate, U.S. Attorney David Anderson said Wednesday the federal government plans to proceed with federal gun charges in the case of Kate Steinle, during an interview on "Fox & Friends."
Zarate, who was previously deported five times, was charged by the state of California with the murder of Steinle in 2015 and was acquitted on charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, and assault with a semi-automatic weapon. He was, however, convicted of felony possession of a firearm, and has maintained the stolen gun he used had discharged in his hands accidentally.
That gun conviction was overturned by a California state appeals court last week, causing the federal government to exercise its option to seek a federal indictment.
"The case is set for trial in our federal courthouse in San Francisco in January of 2020," Anderson told Fox News on Wednesday. "The case is now proceeding through the pretrial proceedings towards that trial date."
"In the federal court we've brought this case on the basis of a statute passed by Congress many years ago that prohibits certain categories of people from possessing any firearms," he added. "If you’re someone who has no lawful status in the United States -- if you’re here without any right to be here, you cannot possess a firearm."
Anderson said it's his duty, along with that of the federal government, to uphold the law and claimed prosecutors will be strictly focused on charges related to illegal possession of a firearm in the upcoming case.
"In the federal prosecution, the crime that is charged is the possession of the firearm," he said. "So the state case was focused of course, as you know, on the victim. In the federal case, it's the possession of a firearm by a person that Congress has prohibited from possessing a firearm, that is the focus of our case.
"I’m not one as a prosecutor to be able to speak about the policy discussion that's going on right now," Anderson continued. "What I do is, I enforce, I uphold the laws that are currently on the books. And so Garcia Zarate as someone who had been previously convicted of a felony offense -- someone who'd previously been deported, is someone who has no right to possess a firearm. That's the statute that I focus on."
Steinle's case was seen as a political rallying cry for anti-illegal immigration activists and served as a campaign pillar for then-candidate Donald Trump before his 2016 election.
The case also inspired "Kate's Law," which would increase penalties for convicted and deported criminals who enter the United States illegally. Thus far, a version of the bill has managed the pass the House of Representatives but failed to advance in the Senate.