Mi­grant-aid vol­un­teer’s trial ends in hung jury

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Rafael Car­ranza

TUC­SON — Jurors in the high-pro­file felony trial against Scott War­ren — a hu­man­i­tar­ian-aid vol­un­teer charged with har­bor­ing two un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants in south­west­ern Arizona — were un­able to reach a ver­dict, prompt­ing the judge to de­clare a mis­trial in the case.

U.S. District Court Judge Raner C. Collins brought the 12-per­son jury into the Tuc­son fed­eral court­room on the af­ter­noon of June 11, af­ter they in­di­cated for a sec­ond time that they were dead­locked on all three charges War­ren faced.

The judge dis­missed the jury af­ter each mem­ber told him that ad­di­tional time de­lib­er­at­ing would not re­sult in a ver­dict.

Collins sched­uled a sta­tus con­fer­ence on the trial for July 2, when pros­e­cu­tors with the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice in Arizona will de­cide whether to try War­ren again be­fore an­other jury.

Pros­e­cu­tors de­clined to com­ment af­ter the judge dis­missed the jury, and the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice in Arizona has not re­sponded to a re­quest for com­ment.

War­ren, 36, a vol­un­teer with the group No More Deaths, faced up to 20 years in fed­eral prison if con­victed.

He’s ac­cused of con­spir­ing to trans­port two un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, Kris­tian Perez-Vil­lanueva and Jose Ar­naldo Sacaria-Go­day, and of har­bor­ing them for sev­eral days in Jan­uary 2018 in Ajo, Arizona.

Speak­ing to re­porters out­side the fed­eral court­house, War­ren ac­knowl­edged that he’d be back in court in a month’s time to learn if the le­gal case against him would con­tinue.

But he thanked his sup­port­ers who filled the court­house to ca­pac­ity on each of the seven days of tes­ti­mony.

“But the other men ar­rested with me that day, Jose Sacaria-Go­day and Kris­tian Perez-Vil­lanueva, have not re­ceived the out­pour­ing of sup­port that I have,” War­ren said. “I do not know how they are do­ing now. But I des­per­ately hope that they are safe.”

War­ren said that the need to pro­vide hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to mi­grants cross­ing the desert along the U.S.Mex­ico bor­der still is “as nec­es­sary” as ever.

He pointed out that since his ar­rest on Jan. 17, 2018, the re­mains of 88 mi­grants were re­cov­ered from the Ajo cor­ri­dor, a re­mote and no­to­ri­ously rugged desert wilderness in south­west­ern Arizona.

Greg Kuyk­endall, the lead at­tor­ney in his de­fense team, praised vol­un­teers, such as War­ren, for us­ing their time and re­sources to help mi­grants in need.

He de­clined to an­swer ques­tions about the pos­si­bil­ity of a re­trial.

“The govern­ment put on its best case, with the full force and count­less re­sources, and 12 jurors could not agree with that case,” Kuyk­endall said. “We re­main de­voted to­day in our com­mit­ment to de­fend Scott’s life­long de­vo­tion to pro­vid­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian aid.”

Vol­un­teers say bor­der hu­man­i­tar­ian work will con­tinue

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.”

The jury be­gan de­lib­er­a­tions mid­day on Friday, af­ter at­tor­neys pre­sented their clos­ing ar­gu­ments in Tuc­son fed­eral court. But af­ter nearly 15 hours of de­lib­er­a­tions, they were un­able to reach con­sen­sus on the three felony counts against War­ren.

The jurors first no­ti­fied Collins late Mon­day af­ter­noon that they were un­able to reach a ver­dict in the case. But the judge asked them to try once again on Tues­day morn­ing.

But af­ter dead­lock­ing once again on Tues­day morn­ing, Collins thanked them and dis­missed them from jury duty.

The jurors left the court­house with­out speak­ing to the me­dia.

Pros­e­cu­tors said War­ren con­spired to har­bor mi­grants

Dur­ing the trial, pros­e­cu­tors with the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice in Arizona ar­gued that the two mi­grants were in good health and did not need med­i­cal care when they showed up to a build­ing known as “the Barn” on Jan. 14, 2018.

The pros­e­cu­tors ar­gued that War­ren had con­spired with Iri­neo Mu­jica, a mi­grants-rights ac­tivist who runs a shel­ter in nearby Sonoyta, Mex­ico, to take in the two mi­grants and shield them from Bor­der Pa­trol. They also al­leged that the hu­man­i­tar­ian aid was used as a “cover” to help them fur­ther their jour­ney il­le­gally into the United States.

Agents ar­rested War­ren, as well as Perez-Vil­lanueva and Sacaria-Go­day, dur­ing a Jan. 17, 2018, raid of the Barn, af­ter they had set up sur­veil­lance of the area.

De­fense at­tor­neys for War­ren said he had no idea that the two men would be at the Barn when he ar­rived, and that he had fol­lowed the pro­to­cols No More Deaths had es­tab­lished to pro­vide a med­i­cal as­sess­ment, as well as food, wa­ter, shel­ter and ori­en­ta­tion to the two mi­grants.

War­ren’s in­tent was not to break the law, but rather to pro­vide life­sav­ing aid, his at­tor­neys said.


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