Speed Reads

The Law

Hung jury thwarts federal prosecution of Arizona teacher arrested for helping migrants

U.S. District Judge Raner Collins declared a mistrial Tuesday evening after a jury in Tucson, Arizona, couldn't agree on whether Scott Warren, a 36-year-old geology teacher and border aid volunteer, had broken the law by helping a pair of Central American migrants crossing a treacherous stretch of Arizona desert. Warren's lawyer, Greg Kuykendall, said eight jurors wanted to find Warren not guilty on all three federal counts and four jurors thought him guilty. He had faced up to 20 years in prison.

"The government put on its best case with the full force of countless resources, and 12 jurors could not agree with that case," Kuykendall said. Warren also read a statement, pointing to the 88 bodies recovered in the Sonoran Desert since his arrest in January 2018. "The government's plan in the midst of this humanitarian crisis? Policies to target undocumented people, refugees, and their families," Warren said. "Prosecutions to criminalize humanitarian aid, kindness, and solidarity," and plans to "build an enormous and expensive wall across a vast stretch of southwestern Arizona's unbroken Sonoran Desert."

Warren is part of the group No More Deaths, which places food and water for migrants in the most treacherous areas of the Arizona desert and recovers the remains of those who died there, as more than 2,800 did between 2000 and 2017. Prosecutors alleged that Warrent was actively trying to hide the two Central Americans from U.S. Border Patrol agents. Warren's defense team said he was simply offering shelter to two men who showed up unexpectedly at a No More Deaths staging house, suggesting the Trump administration was targeting humanitarian workers as part of its border crusade and specifically targeting No More Deaths, which had posted video of Border Patrol agents destroying water jugs just hours before Warren was arrested.

Prosecutors have not said if they intend to retry Warren. Collins has scheduled a status meeting for July 2. Warren still faces misdemeanor charges for driving through the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge to leave water jugs.