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Humanitarian Volunteer Will Face Retrial on Migrant Harboring Charges

U.S.-Mexico Border Wall
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 10, 2019 9:05 AM

Migrating to the United States from Mexico is not the safest venture. Even migrants legally seeking asylum may end up in detention centers, where 24 people have died during the Trump administration at last count. And then there are those who risk exposure, dehydration, and death on a perilous journey through the desert and across rivers. We've recently seen all too well how that passage can end.

Recognizing the environmental dangers inherent in crossing the country's southern border, many humanitarian volunteers provide aid in the form of water, blankets, and medicine to migrants along known routes. Those volunteers risk something as well: their freedom. Just ask Arizona State professor Scott Warren, who is facing a retrial on federal felony charges for his work with the aid group No More Deaths.

Gimme Shelter

Warren was arrested along with two migrants in January last year at a building known as "the Barn" in Ajo, Arizona. No More Deaths uses the structure as a staging area to drop off water and supplies for migrants making the desert crossing, and federal prosecutors claim Warren was conspiring to help the migrants cross the border, shelter them at the Barn, and aid their journey north. He was originally charged with two counts of harboring an illegal alien and one count of conspiracy to do the same.

But the jury in Warren's first trial couldn't reach a verdict, as reported by the Tucson Sentinel:

Warren's first felony trial began on May 29, and after a seven-day trial, jurors deliberated for about 11 hours over two days before they told the court they were struggling to reach a decision. U.S. District Judge Raner Collins, who oversaw the trial, told the jurors to continue their deliberations, and issued an "Allen charge" instructing jurors to try to reach a unanimous verdict. Among the instructions read by Collins in court, jurors were told to "reexamine their own views, but not to change "an honest belief" because of the opinions of fellow jurors or "for the mere purpose of returning a verdict."

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Federal prosecutors have already announced they will retry Warren, albeit minus the conspiracy charge. They have also given him 10 days to accept a plea agreement to lesser misdemeanor charges. But it seems unlikely Warren will accept a plea at this point.

"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 said during a press conference outside the courthouse last week. "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."

If you've been charged with an immigration-related crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

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