Jury can't decide on charges against Arizona border activist

FILE — In this 2018 file photo, Scott Daniel Warren, who is charged with human smuggling, walks in to U.S. District Court in Tucson, Ariz. On Monday, June 10, 2019, a federal judge in Tucson ordered a jury to continue deliberations in the trial against Warren after the jury told the court Monday afternoon that it couldn’t come to a consensus on the three charges against him. (Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star via AP, File)

TUCSON — A U.S. jury could not reach a verdict Tuesday against a border activist charged with conspiracy to transport and harbor migrants in a trial that humanitarian aid groups said would have wide implications on their work.

Defense attorneys argued that Scott Daniel Warren, a 36-year-old college geography instructor, was simply being kind by providing two migrants with water, food and lodging when he was arrested in early 2018. He faced up to 20 years in prison.

But prosecutors maintained the men were not in distress and Warren conspired to transport and harbor them at a property used for providing aid to migrants in an Arizona town near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The case played out as humanitarian groups say they are coming under increasing scrutiny under President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

Outside the courthouse, Warren thanked his supporters and criticized the government’s efforts to crack down on the number of immigrants coming to the U.S.

“Today it remains as necessary as ever for local residents and humanitarian aid volunteers to stand in solidarity with migrants and refugees, and we must also stand for our families, friends and neighbors in the very land itself most threatened by the militarization of our borderland communities,” Warren said.

Glenn McCormick, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona, declined to comment on whether Warren will face another trial. The judge set a July 2 status hearing for the defense and prosecution.

Warren is one of nine members of the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths who have been charged with crimes related to their work. But he is the only one to face felony charges.

Border activists say they worry about what they see as the gradual criminalization of humanitarian action.

Warren has said his case could set a dangerous precedent by expanding the definition of the crimes of transporting and harboring migrants to include people merely trying to help border-crossers in desperate need of water or other necessities.

In Warren’s felony case, the defense team headed by Greg Kuykendall argued that Warren could not, in good conscience, turn away two migrants who had recently crossed the desert to enter the U.S.

Jurors said Monday that they couldn’t reach a consensus on the charges against Warren, but a federal judge told them to keep deliberating. They were still deadlocked Tuesday and ultimately dismissed.

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