Federal Prosecutors To Retry Border Humanitarian Volunteer For Helping Migrants

Scott Warren could be retried on charges of "harboring" two undocumented migrants in Arizona after his first trial ended last month in a hung jury.

Federal prosecutors in Arizona said Tuesday they plan to seek a retrial of a humanitarian aid worker who was previously charged with “harboring” two undocumented migrants.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Wright said that the government would dismiss one count of conspiracy to transport or shield but seek a retrial on two counts of harboring an undocumented immigrant against Scott Warren, according to the Arizona Republic. Warren is a volunteer with the humanitarian aid group No Más Muertas, or No More Deaths.

Border Patrol agents arrested Warren, an academic geographer and former Arizona State University professor, in January 2018 at a building that humanitarian groups use as a staging area to drop off water and supplies for migrants crossing the Arizona desert. He was charged with transporting undocumented migrants and harboring two migrants, which are felonies.

Warren’s first trial on those charges ended in a mistrial on June 11 after the jury couldn’t reach a verdict. Eight of the 12 jurors favored acquitting Warren of all charges. The trial gained widespread attention over concern it represented the Trump administration’s efforts to criminalize humanitarian aid work.

After Tuesday’s hearing, Warren said he is “more prepared than ever” to defend himself in court again, though he questioned the government’s motives in seeking a retrial.

“While I do not know what the government has hoped to accomplish here, I do know what the effect of this has been and will continue to be,” he told reporters outside the courthouse. “A raising of public consciousness, a greater awareness of the humanitarian crisis at the borderlands, more volunteers who want to stand in solidarity with migrants, border residents stiffened up in their resistance to the militarization of our communities, and a flood of water into the desert when it’s most needed.”

Prosecutors on Tuesday also offered Warren a plea deal, saying they would drop the two felony harboring charges if he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of aiding and abetting illegal entry without inspection. Warren’s defense attorney, Greg Kuykendall, told the Republic that prosecutors would not seek to have Warren serve any time in prison. A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office could not confirm to the Republic whether the offer included no jail time.

If Warren is convicted on the felony harboring charges, he could face up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors gave Warren 10 days before the start of the second trial to decide whether to take the plea deal. The second trial is scheduled for Nov. 12.

“By deciding to mount an entirely new trial against Dr. Scott Warren, the Trump administration is doubling down on its attacks against human rights defenders who are doing necessary and life-saving work at the US-Mexico border,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director for Amnesty International, in a statement.

“Amnesty International has documented that the criminalization of Dr. Warren is not an isolated incident, but part of a larger politically-motivated campaign of harassment and intimidation by the US government that is in clear violation of US and international law,” she continued. “The US government must immediately halt these campaigns, and Congress should hold authorities accountable for their abuse of power.”