Sessions blasts sanctuary cities after Kate Steinle murder trial ruling
© Camille Fine

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMcGahn departs as White House counsel The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump requests Turkey's evidence on missing journalist | Takeaways from Texas Senate debate | Key Mueller findings could be ready after midterms The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — GOP faces ‘green wave’ in final stretch to the midterms MORE blasted so-called sanctuary cities late Thursday after a San Francisco jury acquitted an immigrant in the U.S. illegally who was charged with the 2015 murder of 32-year-old Kate Steinle.

“When jurisdictions choose to return criminal aliens to the streets rather than turning them over to federal immigration authorities, they put the public’s safety at risk," Sessions said in a statement.

Sessions's comments came after a jury for the Superior Court of San Francisco acquitted Jose Ines Garcia Zarate of the fatal shooting of Steinle. Zarate had previously been deported five times. 

The court found Zarate not guilty of first or second-degree murder or assault with a firearm, but convicted him of being a felon with a firearm, for which he will be sentenced at a future date.

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"While the State of California sought a murder charge for the man who caused Ms. Steinle’s death—a man who would not have been on the streets of San Francisco if the city simply honored an ICE detainer—the people ultimately convicted him of felon in possession of a firearm," Sessions said, referring to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Sessions urged lawmakers and individual cities to "consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement officers." 

The attorney general has been among several Trump administration officials to invoke the Steinle case in blasting sanctuary cities, which refuse to help federal authorities enforce immigration law.

President Trump, Sessions and other Republicans invoked Steinle's case as an example of the need to beef up border security and crack down on illegal immigration.

Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez, speaking after the verdict was read Thursday in California, said the jury heard the evidence in the case and their verdict “should be respected.”

“For those who might criticize this verdict — there are a number of people who have commented on this case in the last couple of years: the attorney general of the United States and the president and vice president of the United States,” Gonzalez said, according to a local CBS affiliate.

“Let me just remind them: they are themselves under investigation by a special prosecutor in Washington, D.C., and they may soon avail themselves of the presumption of innocence beyond a reasonable doubt, so I ask that they reflect on that before they comment or disparage the results of this case.”

Updated: 9:19 p.m.