Matt Gonzalez, public defender for Jose Zarate, blogged many times about the circumstances surrounding the death of Kate Steinle, allegedly at the hands of his client, lamenting his client’s negative public image and length of time his client already spent in U.S. prisons.
In July, Gonzalez published an entry titled, ‘A So-Called Dangerous Felon,’ in which he details Zarate’s criminal record, softening the edges, downplaying certain convictions, even calling Zarate a ‘casualty’ of the war on drugs due to three separate convictions in 1993 for felony heroin possession and felony narcotics manufacturing – while he was in the U.S. illegally.
“The conviction had magnified consequences since federal immigration laws categorize any drug sale (or possession for sale) as an aggravated felony making any illegal reentry to the U.S., much more serious,” Gonzalez wrote. “He was now labelled a ‘drug trafficker’ under the law, even though the case was minor…”
“As a result, whenever he entered the U.S. — Garcia Zarate faced 20 years in prison just for crossing the border.”
Despite repeatedly experiencing the consequences of his actions, Zarate was undeterred from entering the U.S. illegally on a regular basis, and breaking the law upon arriving.
The U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Mexico describes the repercussions for Americans there legally who “even unknowingly” violate Mexican drug laws.
“Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Mexico are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. If you break local laws in Mexico, your U.S. citizenship will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution.”
According to Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller, who compiled a comprehensive report of Zarate’s criminal history, government sources say Zarate utilized more than 30 aliases over the course of 25 years and served multiple lengthy prison sentences along the way.
He clearly knew what he was doing, and he understood that there might be a price to pay.
And yet, he kept coming back for more.
Gonzalez takes issue with the amount of time Zarate has spent in U.S. prisons – stays during which American taxpayers assumed the cost of keeping Zarate clothed, fed, and medically treated.
“Taken together, Garcia Zarate has spent 18 years in federal prison, plus a year in jail for the convictions from the early 90s,” Gonzalez writes. “This exceeds the time he ever lived in Mexico as an adult. That’s two decades of imprisonment for non-violent offenses.” [emphasis added by Gonzalez]
“Jose Ines Garcia Zarate is being portrayed on the national stage as a dangerous felon without ever having been convicted of violence.”
Interestingly, the blog entry concludes with an addendum of “striking images” taken of Zarate by a San Francisco photographer five weeks before he killed Kate Steinle.
Zarate is pictured standing on Pier 14 – the same location where Steinle would soon die in her father’s arms, pleading, “Help me, dad.”
When questioned by police, Zarate told them he had been shooting at seals.
Then he revised his story, saying he had stumbled upon the gun wrapped in a t-shirt – and that it somehow accidentally discharged three times.
“So I picked it up,” he said. “Then suddenly I heard that ‘boom boom’ three times.”
Then the story changed again.
“During the trial, prosecutors showed video of Garcia Zarate’s police interrogation, in which he gave varying stories about whether he was actually present on Pier 14 that night. He ultimately said both that he shot the gun at ‘seals’ and that it went off accidentally when he stepped on it, ABC 7 reported,” reports the Washington Post. “During deliberations, according to the Chronicle, jurors asked if they could test the trigger of the pistol, presumably to see if it could fire accidentally. The judge denied the request.”
The final account, one that Gonzalez maintains in his own words, alleges that the weapon discharged, a single round ricocheted off the pavement, and struck Kate Steinle in the back, severing her aorta.
Gonzalez maintains that fault for Steinle’s murder can be traced back to the BLM agent from whom the gun was stolen days earlier.
“In leaving the gun unsecured, the BLM officer violated his own agency’s policies and recklessly endangered the lives of others,” he writes. “In fact, but for his negligent act, Kate Steinle would be alive today.”
During a press conference after Zarate was acquitted of any responsibility in Steinle’s death, Gonzalez took the opportunity to attack President Trump, of whom he is not a fan.
“To those who might criticize this verdict… the President and Vice President of the United States – let me just remind them that they are themselves under investigation by a special prosecutor in Washington D.C.,” he said.
Gonzalez was Ralph Nader’s running mate in the 2008 presidential race, and also ran failed campaigns for mayor and district attorney of San Francisco.