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Update on Arrested Humanitarian: Mistrial in Tucson

Update on Arrested Humanitarian: Mistrial in Tucson

Geologist Scott Daniel Warren, a volunteer for No More Deaths, was arrested last year for providing assistance – life-saving water and safe haven – to migrants crossing the southern U.S. border (see Cafe story here). The New York Times and other media outlets report that that trial has resulted in a mistrial:

The trial had drawn worldwide attention and spurred 30 vigils across the United States, a reflection of the fraught debate over immigration issues since President Trump made border security a central issue of his administration.

Key to the case was Mr. Warren’s intent: Was he wholly motivated by a humanitarian purpose when he gave food, water, shelter and clean clothes to the two men from Central America? Or was he illegally concealing the men when he allowed them to remain at the volunteer group’s camp?

Jurors had announced on Monday that they were deadlocked, but they resumed deliberations on Tuesday after the judge ordered them to try again — one sign of the difficult questions raised by the case.

A July 2 conference, scheduled by federal judge Raner C. Collins, will determine the next course of action.

Meanwhile, Warren said in a statement:

“In the time since I was arrested in January 2018, no fewer than 88 bodies were recovered from the Arizona desert,” he said. “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.”

The United Nations was among those organizations speaking out against Warren’s arrest.

The trial of Mr. Warren was marked with protests outside the courthouse and other shows of support for him and his group. Faith leaders, health workers, educators and community members filled the courtroom. About 125,000 people signed an online petition demanding that the case be dismissed.

Mr. Warren’s defense lawyers said that their client was targeted by the Justice Department because No More Deaths had distributed a video showing Border Patrol agents destroying jugs of water that the group had placed in the desert. Mr. Warren was arrested a few hours after the video was posted online. A spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, Robert Daniels, said the agency could not comment during the pending prosecution.

No More Deaths volunteers say they will continue their work, despite arrests, reports the Arizona Republic.

The hung jury in Warren’s felony trial follows the convictions of several other No More Deaths volunteers for carrying out humanitarian aid duties along protected wilderness areas along the Arizona border.

In January, a federal judge in Tucson convicted four volunteers of misdemeanors for entering a wildlife refuge without a permit and dropping off food and water for migrants. He sentenced them to 15 months probation, ordered them to pay a fine of $150, and banned them from the refuge.

The following month, four other No More Deaths volunteers pleaded guilty to a civil infraction of entering a wildlife refuge without a permit, and agreed to pay $280 in fines.

Warren is also awaiting the outcome of a separate misdemeanor case brought against him for entering protected wilderness areas without a permit.  

Page Corich-Kleim, a longtime volunteer with No More Deaths, said despite these results, their work in providing humanitarian aid will continue along southwestern Arizona.

“This evening, we have a group of volunteers driving out to Ajo to put water out,” she said. “So throughout this whole trial, we haven’t stopped doing our work and we’re not going to stop doing our work.”

Photo from No More Deaths website, credit Carrot Quinn

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