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After acquittal on state charges, Kate Steinle’s killer faces trouble from the feds

The Department of Justice is considering federal charges against Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who was acquitted Thursday in the killing of Kate Steinle in 2015. (Michael Macor/Getty Images)

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate – who is also known as Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez — was acquitted Thursday in the shooting death of Kate Steinle, but his legal troubles are not over yet.

Zarate, an illegal immigrant, faces certain deportation now that his trial is over. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have already announced that they plan to take Zarate into custody and deport him from the country.

However, before that happens, Zarate may have to face federal criminal charges related to the incident that sparked a national uproar and a debate over “sanctuary cities.”

What are the possible charges?

Due to constitutional protections against double jeopardy, which prevents anyone from  being tried twice for the same offense after an acquittal, it would be extremely difficult for the Department of Justice to successfully prosecute Zarate for any crime related to the shooting death of Steinle.

However, a Justice Department spokesman told Fox News that federal prosecutors are considering charging Zarate with, among other things, felony re-entry or violation of supervised release.

Zarate had already been deported five times and was wanted for a sixth deportation at the time of Steinle’s killing.

The spokesman, Sarah Isgur Flores, made clear that the Justice Department intends to prosecute Zarate on all possible crimes that he can be charged with, in order to keep him off the streets as long as possible.

“We’re looking at every option and we will prosecute this to the fullest extent of the law because these cases are tragic and entirely preventable,” Flores told Fox News.

Flores also harshly criticized “sanctuary city” policies, like San Francisco’s, saying, “This is a person who had been deported five times — he knew about San Francisco’s sanctuary policies. This is a person that never should have been on that pier, and Kate Steinle would still be alive.”

Zarate was convicted in state court of a felony firearm charge and faces a possible three-year prison sentence related to that charge. However, he will be eligible for credit for time spent incarcerated during the pendency of his trial, which has been almost two years, meaning that he will likely be released from custody for all state-related charges soon.

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