Jury acquits Mexican man in San Francisco pier killing

Published: Thursday, November 30, 2017 @ 7:49 PM
Updated: Thursday, November 30, 2017 @ 7:48 PM

A jury on Thursday found a Mexican man not guilty in the killing of a woman on a San Francisco pier that touched off a fierce national immigration debate two years ago, rejecting possible charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to first-degree murder.

The shooting of Kate Steinle came during the presidential primary campaign in 2015 and was used by then-candidate Donald Trump to push for a wall on the Mexican border.

The president called the verdict "disgraceful" on Twitter late Thursday.

"No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration," Trump wrote.

The suspect's lawyers said outside court that their client's immigration status was unfairly exploited for political purposes and had nothing to do with the criminal case.

"From Day 1 this case was used as a means to foment hate, to foment division and to foment a program of mass deportation. It was used to catapult a presidency along that philosophy of hate of others," defense attorney Francisco Ugarte said after the verdict. "I believe today is a day of vindication for the rest of immigrants."

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate had been deported five times and was wanted for a sixth deportation when Steinle was fatally shot in the back while walking with her father on the pier.

The case spotlighted San Francisco's "sanctuary city" policy, which limits local officials from cooperating with U.S. immigration authorities.

Politics, however, did not come up in the monthlong rial that featured extensive testimony from ballistics experts. Defense attorneys argued that Garcia Zarate was a hapless homeless man who killed Steinle in a freak accident. Prosecutors said he meant to shoot and kill her.

Garcia Zarate did not deny shooting Steinle and said it was an accident.

Jurors did find him guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm, meaning he knowingly had a firearm but there was no intent for him to hurt or shoot anyone. Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the count carries a potential sentence of 16 months to three years behind bars.

"The verdict that came in today was not the one we were hoping for," said Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the San Francisco prosecutor's office. "The jury came back with the verdict they did, and we will respect that decision. ... This is really about the Steinle family. They showed incredible resolve during this whole process."

Jim Steinle told the San Francisco Chronicle the family was saddened and shocked by the verdict.

"There's no other way you can coin it. Justice was rendered, but it was not served," he said in what he called the last interview he would do about the case.

The family did not attend the reading of the verdict. Jurors left without comment and the judge sealed their names.

Before the shooting, Garcia Zarate finished a federal prison sentence for illegal re-entry into the United States and had been transferred to San Francisco's jail in March 2015 to face a 20-year-old charge for selling marijuana.

The sheriff's department released him a few days later after prosecutors dropped the marijuana charge, despite a request from federal immigration officials to detain him for deportation.

The Trump administration has sought to punish sanctuary cities through a series of legal actions, including an executive order to withhold funding, but a federal judge recently blocked it in a lawsuit from two California counties, San Francisco and Santa Clara. The administration has appealed.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Thursday that San Francisco's decision to release Garcia Zarate led to Steinle's death.

"The Department of Justice will continue to ensure that all jurisdictions place the safety and security of their communities above the convenience of criminal aliens," Sessions said. "I urge the leaders of the nation's communities to reflect on the outcome of this case and consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement officers."

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it "will work to take custody of Mr. Garcia Zarate and ultimately remove him from the country" once he serves his local sentence.

San Francisco Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia said during the trial that she didn't know why Garcia Zarate fired the weapon, but he created a risk of death by bringing the firearm to the pier and twirling around on a chair for at least 20 minutes before he fired.

"He did kill someone. He took the life of a young, vibrant, beautiful, cherished woman by the name of Kate Steinle," she said.

Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez said in his closing argument that he knows it's difficult to believe Garcia Zarate found an object that turned out to be a weapon, which fired when he picked it up.

But he told jurors that Garcia Zarate had no motivation to kill Steinle and that as awful as her death was, "nothing you do is going to fix that."

Ballistic experts testified that the bullet ricocheted about 15 feet (4.5 meters) from where Zarate was sitting and then traveled another 80 feet (24 meters) before striking Steinle in the back and piercing her heart.

His attorneys argued that even an expert marksman would have difficulty pulling off such a "skip shot."

The gun was stolen from the SUV of a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger that was parked in San Francisco. The city has been plagued by an epidemic of car burglaries in recent years.

Man with tattooed face wanted for climbing in unlocked window, assaulting woman

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 9:01 PM

Domestic assault suspect Michael Mann is wanted by Cincinnati authorities.
Crimestoppers Cincinnati
Domestic assault suspect Michael Mann is wanted by Cincinnati authorities.(Crimestoppers Cincinnati)

Ohio authorities are searching for a man with distinctive tattoos covering his face and neck, who is  accused of climbing through an unlocked window at a Cincinnati home and assaulting a woman.

>> Read more trending news 

Michael Mann, 34, is wanted for aggravated burglary and domestic violence.

According to police reports, Mann entered the woman's Cincinnati home and slapped and choked her. Police said he has a history of domestic violence and drug charges.

The latest incident involving Mann and the victim, who he has a child with, happened on Jan. 9.

Police are asking for the public’s help in finding the suspect.

Clotilda: Last-known slave ship uncovered after East Coast ‘Bomb Cyclone’

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 1:23 PM

East Coast ‘Bomb Cyclone’ Uncovers Last Known Slave Ship, Clotilda

Years of research and a particularly strong winter storm has led a reporter in Alabama to what is likely the remains of the last ship to carry slave cargo from Africa to the United States.

Writer Ben Raines of al.com reported Tuesday that what is left of the slave ship Clotilda, “lies partially buried in mud alongside an island in the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta, a few miles north of the city of Mobile. The hull is tipped to the port side, which appears almost completely buried in mud. The entire length of the starboard side, however, is almost fully exposed.”

The ship’s remains were discovered by Raines when the “Bomb Cyclone” winter system hit the eastern half of the country earlier this month. A confluence of strong systems created the storm that caused the tide in Mobile Bay to be especially low, Raines pointed out. The lower than normal tide better exposed what was left of the ship.

In the story, Raines says he documented the wreck with historical documents and photos – the remains rest in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, accessible only by boat – and took his findings to a team of archaeologists from the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Fla.

>> Read more trending news

The archaeologists agreed that Raines had probably found what was left of the Clotilda.

In the summer of 1860, the Clotilda brought 110 men, women and children from Africa to Alabama in violation of U.S. laws that banned international slave trade. The ship’s trans-Atlantic journey was the last recorded trip bringing human cargo from an African nation to the United States.

The expedition was financed by Timothy Meaher, a wealthy Mobile businessman who made a bet that he could sneak slaves into the country past forts on either side of the entrance to Mobile Bay, “under the officers’ noses.” 

Meaher was able to hire a ship and captain to bring the slaves to Mobile, but fearing that he would be caught and punished for the stunt, Meaher arranged for the ship to be burned after he had the slaves unloaded.

Those 110 slaves who were brought over on the Clotilda were freed five years later at the end of the Civil War. They asked Meaher to pay for their return to Africa. He refused, and the group went on to petition the U.S. government for the money. When the government refused, the group took up residence near Mobile, creating the community of Africatown.

The town, according to historian Sylvianne Diouf in her book “Dreams of Africa in Alabama,” was run under traditional African law and used African farming and education methods. The last survivor of the Clotilda trip, Cudjoe Kazoola Lewis , died in 1935, though descendants of the slaves brought over on the ship still live in the area.

The story of the Clotilda was recently resurrected in an episode of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots,” hosted by historian Henry Gates. In a December episode, Roots front man and drummer Questlove – whose given name is Ahmir Thompson – finds out that his great, great, great grandfather, Charles Lewis, was one of the slaves brought to America on the Clotilda’s trip.

Gates tells Questlove that Meaher chose the more than 100 slaves from a group of 4,000 to be brought to Alabama. Lewis was one of those chosen.

"Think about the odds, man," Gates said.

Click here to read Raines’ full story on finding the Clotilda. 

 

Baby drowns, toddler injured in bathtub when woman walks away, police say

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 4:30 PM

A Nassau County Sheriff’s Office squad car is blocking a road that leads to a home in Fernandina Beach, Fla., Tuesday where one child died and another was injured in a bathtub incident. 
ActionNewsJax.com
A Nassau County Sheriff’s Office squad car is blocking a road that leads to a home in Fernandina Beach, Fla., Tuesday where one child died and another was injured in a bathtub incident. (ActionNewsJax.com)

A 14-month-old baby girl is dead and a 3-year-old girl is clinging to life after deputies said their mother put them in the bathtub and walked away.

>> Read more trending news 

The incident happened Tuesday at a home in Fernandina Beach, Fla. Deputies arrived and started CPR immediately, authorities said.

They tried everything they could, but the 14-month-old girl didn't make it. The 3-year-old was taken to Baptist Medical Center Nassau in Fernandina Beach. 

Deputies quickly blocked off the road to begin an investigation. Deputies roped off the home with crime scene tape. 

Deputies say the 911 call came in around 1:20 p.m. Tuesday. The mother claimed she put the two kids in the bathtub and walked away, and when she came back, they were under water.

>> Related: 10-month-old baby drowns when intoxicated mother falls asleep in tub, police say

Authorities say any possible charges will not come until their investigation is complete. 

12 camels booted from beauty contest at Middle East festival over Botox use

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 @ 6:16 PM



Pixabay
(Pixabay)

Camels were once prized across the Middle East for transportation, for use in war, for food and even as companions, as guides and partners. Now they’re prized for a whole different set of reasons, including their beauty and racing abilities, and are celebrated at annual camel festivals across the region.

>> Read more trending news 

But it was a little surprising when news reports began surfacing that at least 12 camels have been disqualified from a camel beauty pageant in Saudi Arabia after their handlers were caught using Botox on them.

The camels were among 30,000 of the desert beasts competing in the annual King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, according to The National, a United Arab Emirate-based news service.

Because a “perfect pout” is so valuable, camel owners will go to great lengths to ensure their camel has the proper assets, including “a full, droopy lip and large features,” The National reported.

“They use Botox for the lips, the nose, the upper lips, the lower lips and even the jaw,” Ali Al Mazrouei, 31, a regular at Gulf camel festivals and the son of a top Emirati breeder told the online site.

“It makes the head more inflated so when the camel comes it’s like, ‘Oh look at how big is that head is. It has big lips, a big nose,’” features the camels are prized for. They’re also prized for small ears and some handlers have been known to take matters into their own hands and perform plastic surgery on the ears to achieve a perfect ear.

It’s no wonder camel handlers are so serious about the appearance of their beasts and willing to risk disqualification to enhance their features: $57 million is at stake in prize money at this year’s festival.

>> Related: Giant burning spider spreads flames in apartment, after torched by tenants

Some 300,000 visitors have attended the second annual festival since it started in early January. It runs through the end of the month.

(Pixabay)