Hung Jury In Humanitarian Border Aid Trial

By Michel Marizco, Steve Goldstein
Published: Wednesday, June 12, 2019 - 9:03am
Updated: Wednesday, June 12, 2019 - 12:10pm

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No More Deaths activists place donated shoes
Michel Marizco/KJZZ
No More Deaths activists place donated shoes along where Scott Warren would later address them outside the courthouse.

A federal jury said Tuesday that it could not reach a verdict on the felony charges against Scott Warren, a humanitarian aid worker in Southern Arizona accused of illegally harboring undocumented immigrants. Warren contended he merely provided food, water and shelter to immigrants who needed it and said that humanitarian aid was not a crime.

In the end, four jurors believed Scott Warren was guilty. Eight did not. Prosecutors and the defense will meet again in early July to decide whether this case ends here.

Warren was arrested in the winter of 2018. Prosecutors alleged Warren conspired with another man to smuggle two immigrants away from the border and deeper into the U.S. by skirting around a federal highway checkpoint. Agents surveilled Warren and then moved to arrest him after watching him gesture to two mountain ranges. Warren’s attorneys argued he simply showed the men where to walk so they would not die in the desert.

Afterward, Warren addressed a small group of activists and supporters of the organization, No More Deaths.

"The government’s plan in the midst of this humanitarian crisis? Policies to target undocumented people, refugees and their families. prosecutions to criminalize humanitarian aid, kindness and solidarity," he said.

Since his arrest, he said 88 bodies of undocumented immigrants have been found in Arizona’s west desert. Nobody knows how many have actually died.

He condemned the Homeland Security Department’s plans for replacing what it deemed outdated border fencing along the national wildlife lands of the west desert with about 45 miles of concrete-filled steel poles. He also reserved some words for the two undocumented Central Americans whom he helped that day in January.

"I don’t know what they’re doing now but I certainly hope they are safe," he said.

The U.S. government depositioned both men, then deported them shortly after.

"We become better only by facing our fears," said Warren’s Attorney, Greg Kuykendall. " By understanding the roots of our country’s hatreds. And ultimately by putting the needs of the neediest ahead of our own needs. Just like Scott Warren and all of you many good people have been doing for many, many years. For the desperate souls dying in Arizona’s deserts," he said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to be interviewed following the end of the trial, which means some questions have so far gone unanswered about humanitarian aid workers along the border and whether the US government is targeting them. Prosecutors started the trial last week by declaring humanitarian aid was not on trial. But they ended with telling the jury that Warren and No More Deaths sought to thwart the Border Patrol at every opportunity.

"I think you should ask the government that and use your own common sense," Kuykendall said before leaving.

Alison Harrington is reverend of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson. The storied church offered immigrants sanctuary in the 1980s, and the founders of that Sanctuary movement were convicted of felonies.

"What history will always show is those people stood on the right side of history," she said. Even if there’s a legal risk, she said, people need to be helped.

Scott Warren, center, flanked by his attorneys
Michel Marizco/KJZZ
Scott Warren (center), flanked by his attorneys, in June 2019.

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