U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and the San Francisco Police Officers Association have expressed their deep concern that 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle might still be alive if not for a convicted
felon, and undocumented immigrant, who was released from the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department’s custody instead of being returned to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In an open letter to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Feinstein urged the mayor and the city to participate in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s new Priority Enforcement Program.
She said the program, created as part of President Barack Obama’s November 20, 2014 executive actions on immigration, would enable federal law enforcement to better cooperate with state and local counterparts and take custody of individuals who pose a danger to public safety before they are released.
Feinstein said the homicide of Steinle, a Pleasanton native and San Francisco resident, at Pier 14 near the San Francisco Ferry Building last week indicates that San Francisco needs a program that will focus federal immigration enforcement efforts on convicted criminals and public safety threats.
San Francisco has a “sanctuary city” policy that prohibits law enforcement officials from detaining an individual on the basis of an immigration detainer when they would otherwise be eligible for release from custody.
Feinstein said that the homicide suspect, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had been convicted of 10 crimes, including four drug felonies.
She told Lee in the letter that Lopez-Sanchez had been convicted of heroin possession and narcotics manufacturing and that he was convicted three times for illegal reentry after deportation from the United States.
ICE filed a detainer asking the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department to hold Sanchez for deportation, Feinstein said, but she noted “The Sheriff’s Department failed to respond to that detainer and did not notify ICE when the individual was released.”
Feinstein said Lopez-Sanchez should not have been released.
“We should focus on deporting convicted criminals, not setting them loose on our streets. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I am looking at whether additional federal legislation may be necessary,” Feinstein said.
Feinstein said the release of Lopez-Sanchez was an action that led to last week’s tragic death and urged Lee to take immediate action to prevent such a tragedy from happening again, explaining that the Priority Enforcement Program facilitates the removal of undocumented convicted felons.
“The tragic death of Ms. Steinle could have been avoided,” Feinstein said.
A Facebook post by the San Francisco Police Officers Association on Monday was far harsher on San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy and Lopez-Sanchez’ immigration status.
The Facebook post reads: “Bottom line is a young innocent woman has been murdered in cold blood, in front of her father, by a 5 time deported illegal alien drug dealer. He is an ILLEGAL ALIEN not an undocumented immigrant and if he was where he belonged (Mexico) this innocent victim would still be alive.”
The post goes on to state “If this City and some of its elected official continue with this failed policy then it will happen again.”
Matt Gonzalez, the chief attorney at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, said at Lopez-Sanchez’s arraignment Tuesday afternoon that the death of Steinle was tragic but that “very likely this was an accidental shooting.”
Gonzalez maintained that there is an “aggressive narrative that this case is about immigration,” but he said he believes this case is “more about the ubiquitous nature of guns in our country.”
San Francisco police are continuing to investigate how Sanchez-Lopez gained access to a firearm.
San Francisco police Spokeswoman Officer Grace Gatpandan said that her office is unable to confirm reports that the gun allegedly used by the suspect belonged to a federal agent.
Lopez-Sanchez pleaded not guilty to murder with malice aforethought Tuesday afternoon, with Gonzalez arguing that the shooting was likely accidental.
However, Assistant District Attorney Diana Garcia told Judge Daniel Flores that the suspect allegedly shot an innocent victim in the back at close range.
Lopez-Sanchez, who has been deported from the United States on multiple occasions for various felonies, was speaking to the court through a Spanish interpreter.
Twice during his arraignment Lopez-Sanchez told the judge in English, “I’m not guilty,” although the judge had already heard his plea and was asking him an unrelated question regarding scheduling.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials took custody of Lopez-Sanchez back in March, when he was remanded to the agency after serving a multi-year federal prison sentence for felony re-entry following deportation, ICE spokesperson Gillian Christensen said in a statement.
ICE turned Sanchez over to San Francisco police on March 26 on an outstanding drug warrant, Christensen said.
San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Alex Bastian said the outstanding $5,000 warrant was for selling $20 worth of marijuana at United Nations Plaza back in 1995.
On March 27, a San Francisco Superior Court judge dismissed the drug charges against Lopez-Sanchez.
ICE requested he be returned to their custody upon his release, but the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department did not honor that request, according to Christensen.
Christensen said Sanchez had been deported five times, most recently in 2009. According to her record, Lopez-Sanchez’ criminal history includes seven prior felonies, including four involving narcotics.
Gonzalez, however, told the judge that Lopez-Sanchez had no convictions for violent offenses and that he had no desire to hurt Steinle.
Bail for Lopez-Sanchez was set at $5 million and he was ordered to appear in court for a pre-hearing conference on July 27.
Different government agencies have conflicting information about Lopez-Sanchez such as his full name, his age, and his criminal history.
The San Francisco Police Department said his age was 39 years old, while the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department said he was 52 years old. Other agencies have said he is 45 years old.
Chinatown association leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow and seven other people were given an Oct. 19 date in federal court in San Francisco today for a trial on racketeering conspiracy and organized-crime charges.
Chow, 55, is the leader or “dragonhead” of the Chee Kung Tong fraternal association in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Prosecutors allege that a criminal faction of the group engaged in an organized-crime enterprise that included drug trafficking, sales of stolen and contraband goods, extortion and money laundering.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer today scheduled jury selection for the eight defendants to begin on Oct. 19 and opening statements and testimony in the trial on Nov. 2.
Chow and his co-defendants are among 28 people charged in a 230-count indictment that also included separate corruption conspiracy charges against former state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo.
Last week Yee, 67, and his fundraiser, former San Francisco school board president Keith Jackson, pleaded guilty before Breyer to a charge of racketeering conspiracy to accept campaign contributions as bribes for political favors.
Yee specifically admitted to accepting four contributions totaling $34,600 in exchange for using his official authority or influence.
Jackson’s son, Brandon Jackson, and sports agent Marlon Sullivan pleaded guilty to participating in the unrelated organized-crime racketeering conspiracy, the same charge that Chow and his co-defendants will face in the October trial.
Yee was not charged in the organized-crime conspiracy. Keith Jackson was, but prosecutors will drop that charge against him in exchange for his guilty plea in the corruption conspiracy.
The pleas cleared the way for Breyer to set the trial date for the new round of defendants. Yee and the other three men had been scheduled go on trial in Breyer’s Federal Building courtroom this summer, with jury selection July 27 and opening statements Aug. 10. They will now be sentenced on Oct. 21.
In addition to the organized-crime conspiracy count, the charges in the October trial will include about 100 counts accusing the eight defendants of various specific crimes.
The additional charges against Chow include conspiracy to receive and transport stolen liquor, conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes and several dozen counts of laundering money gained in illegal activities.
The supposedly stolen liquor and contraband cigarettes were supplied or offered by undercover FBI agents, who began investigating Chow and other association members in 2010, according to documents filed in the case.
Chow was previously convicted of racketeering and gun charges and admitting to being a gang member. His attorneys maintain he turned his life around after being released from prison in 2003 and is innocent of the current charges. He has been held without bail since his arrest in March 2014.
Outside the Federal Building after the hearing, defense attorney Tony Serra said, “We’re delighted we have a jury trial to commence on Oct. 19. We look forward to our client being exonerated.
“Our client…will not consider pleading and will testify on his own behalf,” Serra said.
Serra said Chow’s attorneys know there have been negotiations between prosecutors and some defense attorneys and expect that at least half of the Chow’s co-defendants in the trial may reach plea bargains.
“But we don’t fear that,” said Serra, saying that Chow’s attorneys don’t think he could be harmed by any possible testimony from former co-defendants.
Serra said Chow lived on the charity of others while trying to do good works in the Chinatown community and “accepted relatively small amounts of money” from people later identified as undercover agents. But the money was not accepted in exchange for any illegal activities, Serra said.
Also at today’s hearing, Breyer denied a motion by all defendants remaining in the case for suppression of the use of evidence from wiretaps and secret recordings by the FBI agents. The motion, which was filed under seal and has not been made public, was originally submitted by Yee’s and Jackson’s attorneys and then joined by all the other defendants.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ralph Frentzen told the judge the main prosecution evidence in the case will be the recordings and wiretaps, to be presented by the lead FBI agent, who allegedly posed as a Mafia member.
When several defense attorneys indicated they may want to file renewed challenges to the recordings, Breyer said he had directed them to submit challenges by an earlier deadline and told them, “Anything you could have claimed has now been adjudicated.”
But the judge said he will consider allowing more disputes about the recordings if the attorneys can show they have obtained information not previously available to support a challenge.
In addition to Chow, the defendants in the trial will be George Nieh, 45, of San Francisco; Kevin Siu, 31, of Daly City; Alan Chiu, 59, of San Francisco; Kongphet Chanthavong, 37, of San Francisco; Andi Li, 41, of South San Francisco; and Leslie Yun, 43, and her husband, Yat Wa Pau, also known as James Pau, 55, of Oakland.
Today will be cloudy with patchy fog in the morning. Highs will be in the lower to mid-60s. West winds could reach 10 to 20 mph.
Tonight will be cloudy with patchy fog and drizzle after midnight. Lows will be in the mid-50s and west winds could reach 10 to 20 mph.
Thursday will be mostly cloudy with patchy fog and drizzle in the morning. There will be a slight chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon.Highs will be in the lower 60s. Southwest winds could reach 10 to 20 mph.
(News Roundup Via Bay City News)