[Pnews] Felony Trial of No More Deaths Volunteer Scott Warren Ends in Mistrial

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jun 12 11:58:52 EDT 2019


  Felony Trial of No More Deaths Volunteer Scott Warren Ends in Mistrial

Ryan Devereaux - June 12, 2019

_Twelve jurors walked_ into the federal courthouse in Tucson, Arizona, 
Tuesday afternoon with a problem. Two weeks after the U.S. government 
began to argue its case in the prosecution of Scott Warren, a 
border-based humanitarian aid volunteer accused of two counts of felony 
harboring and one count of conspiracy, the jurors could not come to a 
unanimous decision as to whether he was innocent or guilty.

The previous afternoon, the jurors had sent a letter to District Judge 
Raner Collins, informing him that they were deadlocked. Collins ordered 
them to go back and try again. By Tuesday, they were still stuck. Eight 
jurors believed Warren was innocent on all counts. Four believed he was 
guilty. They sent Collins another note, and, at 1:33 p.m., they 
reentered his courtroom. The judge asked the jurors if they all believed 
that further deliberation would fail to yield a unanimous decision. On 
that point, they were all in agreement: The jury was hung.

“I want to thank you for your time and your attention,” Collins said, 
and with that, he dismissed the jurors, and one of the most important 
trials involving humanitarian aid on the U.S.-Mexico border in recent 
memory came to an end.

Nineteen months after his arrest, Warren’s case had drawn international 
attention and outrage, with United Nations human rights experts and 
advocacy organizations from around the world decrying the prosecution as 
a blatant attack on humanitarian aid in a region where thousands of 
migrants have died — and continue to die — in the desert.

Despite the mistrial, the government has not dropped the charges against 
Warren, a 36-year-old geographer from Ajo, Arizona. The possibility of a 
retrial is still alive, with Warren facing up to 20 years in prison if 
convicted on all counts and sentenced to consecutive terms. A status 
meeting in the case is scheduled for early July.

“The government put on its best case with the full force of countless 
resources, and 12 jurors could not agree with that case,” defense 
attorney Greg Kuykendall told reporters Tuesday. “Scott Warren remains 
innocent as a legal and as a factual matter, because the jury could not 
conclude otherwise,” he added. “We remain devoted today in our 
commitment to defend Scott’s lifelong devotion to providing humanitarian 

Warren was arrested on January 17, 2018, at a humanitarian aid facility 
in Ajo known as the Barn, some 40 miles above the border, in one of the 
deadliest stretches of the Sonoran Desert for migrants making their way 
north. Owing to a Clinton-era border strategy known as Prevention 
Through Deterrence, which intentionally funnels migrants into the most 
dangerous areas of the desert and remains the foundation of modern 
American border enforcement to this day, a minimum of 3,000 people have 
died in the Arizona borderlands — though the true total is guaranteed to 
be higher.

In 2014, Warren began building bridges between humanitarian groups in 
southern Arizona, an effort to focus aid work — including the delivery 
of food and water, and search and recovery operations — in an area where 
the effects of Prevention Through Deterrence have been particularly 
brutal: the so-called West Desert, also known as the Ajo corridor. In 
the years that followed, these volunteers directly contributed to a 
historic increase in the number of human remains and bodies recovered in 
the region.

On the morning of Warren’s arrest, one of the groups Warren volunteers 
with, the faith-based organization No More Deaths, published 
a detailed report implicating the Border Patrol in the destruction of 
jugs containing thousands of gallons of water left for migrants crossing 
the desert over multiple years. The report included video evidence. 
Hours after it was published, a pair of plainclothes Border Patrol 
agents set up a surveillance post across from the Barn. There they 
spotted Warren with two individuals they suspected were undocumented.

“Toncs at the barn,” agent Brendan Burns wrote 
in a group text, using Border Patrol slang for migrants; some believe it 
refers to the sound a flashlight makes when it connects with a human skull.

The “toncs” Burns referred to were 23-year-old Kristian 
Perez-Villanueva, of El Salvador, and 20-year-old José Arnaldo 
Sacaria-Goday, of Honduras. The pair had left their countries 
separately. Perez-Villanueva hoped to seek asylum. Sacaria-Goday was 
homeless. They were strangers when they met in a Mexican border town. 
They became close and crossed the border together. They spent two nights 
in the desert, where they were chased by immigration agents and tossed 
their backpacks and supplies, including their food.

Backed up by a caravan of law enforcement vehicles, the agents in the 
wash descended on the Barn and placed Warren and the two young men under 
arrest. The following month, Warren was indicted by a grand jury. While 
Warren was released on his own recognizance after a night in Border 
Patrol custody, Perez-Villanueva and Sacaria-Goday were not. The 
government detained the pair as material witnesses in its case for 
several weeks, then deported them once their depositions were taken.

As The Intercept reported in a yearlong investigation 
published in May, Warren’s felony case was the culmination of an 
escalating law enforcement crackdown against humanitarian volunteers in 
southern Arizona that began shortly after 
<https://theintercept.com/2017/06/17/arizona-border-patrol-raid-surveillance-no-more-deaths-humanitarian-immigration/> President 
Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Warren was also one of nine 
No More Deaths volunteers hit with federal misdemeanor littering charges 
in 2017 for leaving food, water, and other humanitarian aid supplies on 
a federal wildlife reserve outside Ajo, where migrants routinely die. 
The first trial 
in those cases, held in January, resulted in four No More Deaths 
volunteers convicted and sentenced to 15 months of probation and ordered 
to pay $250 in fines. A second group of volunteers facing misdemeanor 
charges accepted similar consequences days later, and the charges 
against them were formally dismissed.

Warren’s misdemeanor trial 
was held last month. Judge Collins has yet to issue a decision in that case.

Following the jury’s dismissal Tuesday, Warren’s friends and family 
filtered out into the hallway on the fifth floor of the courthouse, many 
unclear on what would happen next.

“Scott wanted to resume his life,” Mark Warren, Scott’s father, told The 
Intercept. “This has been the focus of Scott’s life for such a long time 
now, and it’s all encompassing. It’s not like it’s just something that’s 
happening to me over here — it’s everything.”

As Warren’s family and supporters awaited new information, Kuykendall 
and his co-counsel, Amy Knight, were given the rare opportunity to speak 
with the jurors about the case at length. The defense attorneys told The 
Intercept they left the conversation with the impression that the 
deliberations in the case were serious and the jurors’ recaps of the 
process were specific.

When Warren stepped out of the courthouse Tuesday afternoon, he was 
greeted by a throng of press, friends, and supporters. Standing before 
the cameras and microphones, he immediately addressed the issues that 
matter to him most. “Since my arrest in January 2018, at least 88 bodies 
were recovered from the Ajo corridor of the Arizona desert. We know 
that’s a minimum number and that many more are out there and have not 
been found,” Warren told the crowd. “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.”

As he wrapped up his brief remarks, Warren turned his focus to the 
people who have supported him and to the people who have been lost from 
his story. “I’ve received enormous support from family, friends, 
lawyers, and my community. Thank you to everyone, and I want to say that 
I love you all very, very much,” he said. “The other men that were 
arrested with me that day, José Sacaria-Goday and Kristian 
Perez-Villanueva, have not received the attention and outpouring of 
support that I have. I do not know how they are doing now, but I 
desperately hope that they are safe.”

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