TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) – Humanitarian aid worker Scott Warren walked out of court to cheers from supporters today after a jury deadlocked on charges that he helped two undocumented immigrants get into the United States and hid them from border agents.
Warren, 36, thanked his family, friends, lawyers and community for their support since his arrest Jan. 17, 2018. The volunteer for the nonprofit aid group No More Deaths was charged with one count of conspiracy to harbor or transport and two counts of harboring illegal aliens. His seven-day trial before U.S. District Judge Raner Collins went to jurors this past Friday.
In a brief statement outside the courthouse, Warren immediately highlighted the reason he helps immigrants.
“Since my arrest in January of 2018, at least 88 bodies were recovered from the Ajo corridor of the Arizona desert. We know that’s a minimum and many more are out there that have not been found,” Warren said. He noted the government’s response, which includes criminalizing humanitarian aid and planning a wall.
“Today it remains as necessary as ever for humanitarian aid volunteers to stand in solidarity with migrants and refugees,” he said.
Prosecutors claimed Warren conspired with Mexican aid worker Irineo Mujica and No More Deaths nurse Susannah Brown to help two undocumented migrants – Kristian Gerardo Perez-Villanueva from El Salvador and Jose Arnaldo Sacaria-Godoy from Guatemala – into the tiny town of Ajo, Arizona, about 30 miles north of Mexico where No More Deaths maintains a permanent aid station they call the “barn.”
Mujica, prosecutors said, was in contact with Warren in the days before the men climbed the border fence outside Sonoyta, Mexico, across the border from Lukeville, Arizona. The men hiked two nights, eventually getting to Ajo and finding a man who prosecutors say was Mujica, who gave them a ride to the barn.
The jury deliberated two days before coming back deadlocked.
Also in a brief statement outside the courthouse, Warren’s attorney Greg Kuykendall said the U.S. government has long demonized and “otherized” marginalized people, at times excluding them from the nation entirely, but there is another minority in the U.S. that counters the government efforts.
“People who love, honor and respect all people regardless of race or status, people who put to use in order to help the dispossessed, their own birth privilege or their own education privilege or simply their own privilege of being able to make themselves heard,” he said. “Ultimately they do that to change this county.”
Kuykendall declined to guess if prosecutors will retry Warren.
He also declined to directly address claims that the prosecution was in retaliation for a No More Deaths report just days before Warren’s arrest that included video of Border Patrol agents destroying water left by volunteers in the desert, where temperatures routinely exceed 110 degrees and water can save lives.
“I think you should ask the government that question, and use your own common sense,” he said.
Prosecutors did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.