Jury Refuses to Convict Scott Warren for Showing Kindness to Immigrants

Warren faced up to 20 years in federal prison for providing humanitarian aid to two undocumented immigrants.


On January 14, 2018, two Central American migrants suffering from dehydration and exhaustion showed up at "the Barn," a building used by humanitarian aid groups in the border town of Ajo, Arizona. Scott Warren—a volunteer with the advocacy group No Más Muertes/No More Deaths—gave them food and water, and allowed them to spend a few nights there while they recuperated.

Three days later, Warren was arrested by Border Patrol and charged with two counts of harboring undocumented immigrants and one count of conspiracy to harbor and transport them. If convicted, he faced up to 20 years in federal prison.

Warren's trial began last month. Yesterday, the jury who heard the case told Judge Raner C. Collins of the Federal District Court in Tucson that they could not reach a verdict, and Collins declared a mistrial. Eight jurors wanted to acquit Warren on all charges, while four wanted to convict.

A status hearing for the case is scheduled for July 2. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona has not said if it will pursue another trial.

"In the time since I was arrested in January 2018, no fewer than 88 bodies were recovered from the Arizona desert," Warren, a geology instructor, said immediately following the verdict. "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."

No More Deaths helps migrants as they cross the treacherous stretches of desert along the U.S.-Mexico border. As I wrote back in March:

That undocumented immigrants are negotiating precarious paths in favor of accessible ports of entry is no coincidence, according to No More Deaths. It's tactical, they say—part of a Border Patrol strategy that concentrates enforcement resources in urban areas to divert travel to hostile, potentially fatal routes.

Known as "Prevention Through Deterrence," Border Patrol conceived the practice in 1994. Such unsafe conditions should dissuade large swaths of immigrants from making the journey, the thinking goes. No More Deaths says the strategy is synonymous with "death as a deterrent."

Records show a spike in migrant fatalities not long after the implementation of "Prevention Through Deterrence." Between 1998 and 2005, the Tucson sector, where No More Deaths is stationed, saw annual deaths grow from 11 to 219.

"Since 1998, over 8,000 human remains have been recovered in Southern Arizona," Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler, a spokeswoman for the organization, tells Reason. "Since we know bodies break down quickly in such harsh environmental conditions, we know the true death count is much higher."

Prosecutors in the Warren case did not issue a statement immediately after the mistrial. But over the course of the trial, they disputed that Warren, a Christian, acted out of compassion or religious conviction. The case was "not about humanitarian aid," according to Nate Walters, an assistant U.S. attorney, but about a scheme "to shield illegal aliens from law enforcement for several days."

Federal prosecutors tried to prove that Warren intended to shield migrants from law enforcement using two pieces of circumstantial evidence. The first piece hinged on Warren's relationship with Mexican-American activist Irineo Mujica, who runs a migrant shelter in nearby Sonoyta, Sonora, on the Mexico side of the border. Warren visited the shelter several days before Mujica dropped two migrants—Kristian Perez Villanueva of El Salvador and Jose Sacaria Goday of Honduras—off at No More Death's barn. The order of events suggested that Warren and Mujica coordinated to hide the two men from law enforcement once they'd reached U.S. soil, prosecutors say, rather than only help them escape the desert. Warren testified that when he visited Mujica, they spoke only about searches for human remains in the Arizona desert.

The second piece of evidence came from Border Patrol agents who said they saw Warren conversing with the two migrants while he pointed at mountains in the distance. Although the officers conceded that they could not hear the discussion, they argued that Warren was likely telling the two migrants how to avoid a security checkpoint. Warren testified that he was telling the migrants to stay aware of State Route 85—the lone paved road on their hike, which runs between two mountains—in case of emergencies.

Four volunteers with No More Deaths were sentenced in March to 15 months probation for leaving jugs of water and cans of beans in the desert for passing migrants. In the eyes of the federal government, it seems that kindness is criminal.

NEXT: 1,051 Crack Sentence Reductions Illustrate Painful Progress Toward a Less Mindlessly Punitive Justice System

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  1. Strictly speaking, the statute he was accused of violating was not “showing kindness to immigrants”. There is no such statute.

    I suppose if a jury let him off for killing somebody, he would be acquitted of “making more food and shelter available to other people” or something.

    1. I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. True, there is no crime called “showing kindness to immigrants,” but effectively in layman’s terms that’s what this is. He didn’t violate anyone’s rights, and so from a libertarian standpoint I think it would be wrong to convict.

    2. Obviously, the defense wants to play on the emotions of the jury but I think you can understand the law and still nullify the charge.

      1. You could just as well argue that one can go to Mexico to do humanitarian work with people coming from there, thus negating the need to aid and abet a federal crime here.
        And the sooner one reaches the prospective aidee, the better one’s chances of saving a life are.

        1. You got here first. No More Deaths could focus their efforts on meeting up with potential immigrants before they illegally crossed the border and try to provide support to help them be economically self-sufficient in Mexico or their home country.

          1. This is not good reasoning. It is not his responsibility to help people crossing the boarder or those in Mexico. But people will be in need based on their own decisions and regardless of his efforts so it is kindness to help them. Criminalize that you cowards

      2. No decent person would want to see this man in jail. But I get a little angry when I keep seeing lying crap, e.g., “undocumented” Jesus, if you can’t even use the correct title for illegal, and that is what they are, illegal immigrants, you deserve no support. The small lie is what fascists use to portray something illegal as not only LEGAL, but as a good thing. It is NOT a good thing to allow ILLEGAL (NOT undocumented) aliens in. There is a right way and a wrong a way to come to the U.S. , and I am sorry that a magazine I subscribe to and enjoy won’t “lower” itself to using accurate words.

  2. “Jury refuses to convict….” Spin much?

    1. Well, that is what Mueller did, right?

    2. The jury hung, 8 for acquittal and 4 for guilty. How is “jury refuses to confict…” inaccurate?

      1. *sigh*

        “Jury refuses to acquit….” would be accurate too.

        “Mistrial declared….” would be an objective title that isn’t subject to inference or bias. But that wasn’t Billy’s goal, was it?

        1. All the story that fits The Narrative

      2. “Jury refuses to convict” implies that the entire jury voted not guilty, which would have properly described as “jury acquits”. Using the word “refuses” implies that the jurors voting not guilty believed the defendant to be factually guilty but declined to convict anyway. We don’t know that. The four jurors might simply have been unconvinced by the prosecution’s arguments. The neutral headline would have been “Hung jury in Scott Warren case”.

        1. He should be convicted. Although 20 years would be an absurd sentence. Maybe 6-12 months in minimum security. At least as much time as they gave Dinesh D’Souza for his noncrime.

          1. Last of the Shitlords, Last of the Shit-for-Brains…whatever.

            D’Souza PLED GUILTY. To a federal crime. His own lawyer admitted his wrongdoing (but tried to minimize it by saying it was a result of misguided friendship).

            People who take guilty folks (and those who plead guilty or are convicted, are by definition, guilty) and try to compare them to people who have not been convicted . . . well, it’s a free internet. You can make any arguments you want. I think you sound a bit dopey, and sort of like an intellectual whore. But you probably get a lot of upvotes and ‘likes’ from those on the extreme of my party.


            1. D’Souza was politically targeted by Obama for the documentary he released about him. His ‘crime’ normally results in a fine. So don’t start that bullshit here, m’kay?

              The person in question in this case IS guilty. So again don’t start that bullshit.

              And don’t EVER presume to lecture me about anything progtard.

  3. Headline left out an important adjective.

      1. As in “Brown Jury…”?

    1. “Hung Jury”. Makes a big difference.

  4. Take away – – –
    Four people placed more weight on federal speculation about a conversation they did not hear than on the sworn testimony of a person involved in the conversation. Twice.
    Welcome to the revolution.

  5. This individual human liberty stuff can go too far!

    –Most libertarians here

    1. Yes, it can. For example, we can’t all have our own individual foreign policies. As a practical necessity, we must deal with other nations as a nation. Part of that is enforcing our border.

      1. The hell we can’t!

        The only way a single foreign policy makes sense is when we wage war in foreign countries, and even that could be solved if fighting in a war zone was voluntary (as opposed to joining the army).

        If we had no overseas military, what foreign policy remains? Who to boycott? Which stupid hikers to scram about when they trespass?

        Foreign policy would be oodles more sane if foreign governments had to convince individuals and charities they were deserving of foreign aid.

        1. Yeah, ok bud. That makes sense.

  6. Yes! Nice to have a bit of good news.

  7. Given the evidence is as stated in the article, I would absolutely vote to acquit. One, because the circumstantial evidence just isn’t very strong. And two, 20 years for this is absolutely ridiculous. However, it does sound like the person involved wasn’t just providing some food and water to random “travelers”. It sounds like he set up his establishment for the very purpose of “harboring” illegal immigrants. Should that get him 20 years in a fed pen? Of course not.
    However, the article’s focus on “Prevention through Deterrence” being some ghastly scheme is completely wrong. I am in the middle regarding illegal immigration. But no one is forcing anyone to travel through the desert. Leaving Mexico isn’t the same as trying to cross the Berlin Wall. I get that they are coming here for a better life. But, border control is a legitimate function of government.

    1. Leaving Mexico isn’t the same as trying to cross the Berlin Wall.

      No, but it did get significantly harder to cross the border illegally during the Obama years (not that either side wants to highlight that part of the narrative).

      Prior to 2009, crossing the border illegally was a pretty casual thing, relatively speaking. By 2011, people were crossing the desert instead of coming into San Diego.

      1. Crossing the border legally is not difficult for Mexicans. Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans visit the US legally every year on B1 or B2 visas or with Border Crossing Cards. Only those who come here with the intention of breaking our laws need to enter illegally.

        1. As Derpner well knows, B1/B2 visa holders are not legally allowed to work in the US.

          1. No, they’re not, which is why people without work permits cross illegally. As I said, they come here to break our laws—by entering and working without permission. But, what we were talking about is crossing the border. That is easy and commonplace for Mexicans.

  8. What’s wrong with these jurors?
    Don’t they know we have a prison industrial complex to maintain?
    Keeping people out of prison will only make our prison population decrease, and the good ol’ USA won’t be number one when it comes to incarcerations!
    Oh, the horror.
    The horror!

  9. “Four volunteers with No More Deaths were sentenced in March to 15 months probation for leaving jugs of water and cans of beans in the desert…”

    They were sentenced to 15 months probation for littering?
    Couldn’t they have claimed it was a folk art installation or something?

  10. Since we know bodies break down quickly in such harsh environmental conditions, we know the true death count is much higher.

    Try again, liar. Dry climates are famous for their mummies.

  11. Good

  12. Is this that Jury Nullification thing I’m always hearing about?

    1. Yep. No way I could vote convict.

    2. We don’t know. The four jurors who voted not guilty might have believed the defendant was factually innocent, or that the prosecutor failed to prove his case.

  13. Perhaps his time would be better spent dissuading foreigners from cheating and evading our legal immigration system and to not try hiking across the scorching desert border.

    1. This bullshit and the idiot defendant just encourage more of them to come here like that. Morons.

      1. People die trying to flee hardship in the hopes of a better life and this is the response from some asshole who spends all his time at work in website comment sections

        1. ^^ EXACTLY!!!
          Well put!

        2. And you’re the asshole who lives in the ivory tower, his wages unaffected by cheap labor coming into the system.

          We’re all assholes, which is irrelevant. What is relevant are the facts of the opposing arguments, the goals of our immigration policy and the actual immigration policy that is in place. Your emotional arguments are useless.

  14. When people in a polity disagree on what the State should point guns at people for, they start pointing guns at each other to settle the issue.

  15. Yes! Nice to have a bit of good news.

  16. […] On January 14, 2018, two Central American migrants suffering from dehydration and exhaustion showed up at “the Barn,” a building used by humanitarian aid groups in the border town of Ajo, Arizona. Scott Warrena volunteer with the advocacy group No Más Muertes… Read More […]

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  18. LAME

    20 years would be excessive, but aiding and abetting people committing crimes, including helping them avoid law enforcement, should not go unpunished.

  19. […] undocumented immigrants but will dismiss a charge of conspiracy to transport them after a jury deadlocked in June over those same […]

  20. […] undocumented immigrants but will dismiss a charge of conspiracy to transport them after a jury deadlocked in June over those same […]

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