A federal jury found humanitarian aid worker Scott Warren not guilty of “harboring illegal immigrants” near the US-Mexico border.
The Arizona volunteer with the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths was accused of hiding two men for several days at a property in Ajo, Arizona, in January 2018. No More Deaths and other humanitarian aid groups use the property as a staging area for search and rescue operations and leave water and food along migrant trails.
“This really affirms the right(s) of people crossing the border or otherwise in the desert to receive humanitarian aid and our right to give aid,” said Jeff Reinhardt, a spokesman for No More Deaths.
Warren, who has been volunteering with the group for years, could have faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the two harboring charges against him.
The jury’s verdict on Wednesday ended Warren’s second trial in the case. In June, a federal judge declared a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a verdict. Warren had been charged with one count of conspiracy to transport and two counts of “harboring illegal aliens.” At the time, jurors were split 8-4 in favor of acquittal on all three charges, said Warren’s attorney, Greg Kuykendall.
Prosecutors decided to drop the conspiracy charge for Warren’s second trial, court documents show. During his recent trial, Warren’s attorney claimed his client gave food, shelter and first aid to two men after they traveled several days through the desert from the US-Mexico border. Prosecutors argued the men were not in medical distress and accused Warren of helping them evade authorities.
“We will continue to provide food, water, and medical aid to all those who need it, until the day that no one dies or disappears while crossing the deserts and oceans of the world,” No More Deaths tweeted following the verdict.
CNN has reached out to the US Attorney’s Office for the district of Arizona for comment.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, applauded Wednesday’s verdict.
“Sense has prevailed today with the jury exonerating Dr. Scott Warren for a simple reason: humanitarian aid is never a crime,” Guevara-Rosas said in a statement. “The Trump administration is wrong to try to prosecute people who are only trying to save lives. By threatening Dr. Warren with a decade in prison, the US government sought to criminalize compassion and weaponize the deadly desert against people who make the perilous journey to the United States in search of safety.”
No More Deaths says hundreds of migrants have died in the area since 2001. This year, the group has tried to prevent more deaths by having volunteers place over 12,000 gallons of water throughout the Arizona desert.