Scott Warren acquitted in second trial

It took the jury just a few hours to acquit the human rights activist who was charged with breaking the law because he provided food, water, clothing, and shelter, to weary immigrants crossing the desert regions on the US-Mexican border. The first trial had ended in a hung jury and the Customs and Border Protection agency decided to try him again and this time urged the judge to not allow Warren to bring up the cruel policies of Donald Trump as a defense.

I do not know if the judge agreed to the request or not but whatever that decision was, it is clear that the jury felt that providing humanitarian aid should not be criminalized.

The activist Scott Warren has been acquitted on charges he illegally harbored two Central American migrants, after facing two trials over what he insisted was simply helping people in need.

The Wednesday verdict by a jury in US district court came after jurors deliberated for just hours. It was the second trial for Warren; a mistrial was declared last June after a jury deadlocked on harboring charges.

Warren was stoic after the verdict was read. His supporters were crying at the news of the decision.

Warren, 37, testified that neutrality guides his work near the border and denied he has ever helped migrants hide or instructed them how to avoid authorities.

Greg Kuykendall, an attorney who defended Warren, said the new jury followed the law carefully.

“They parsed the evidence,” he said. “They paid rapt attention while we were putting on our defense and while the prosecution was putting on its case, and they decided that humanitarian aid is not always a crime, the way the government wanted it to be.

Law are generally tools used by the powerful to protect themselves and their property. Ordinary people have a better sense of what the law should be, rather than what it is. I suspect that in this case, they did not care that much what the letter of the law said. They likely felt that Warren had a done a good deed that should not be punished.


  1. TGAP Dad says

    “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
    ― Anatole France

  2. says

    If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is a ass.”


    “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.”

    Not only must the law not be an ass, it must be seen not to be asinine.

    In this case the US government’s law is outright evil. The state is not legitimate.

  3. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    “they decided that humanitarian aid is not always a crime”
    Can you give examples of when it is?

  4. EigenSprocketUK says

    @3 Lassi Hippeläinen: You would be better to put that question to Greg Kuykendall, the attorney who defended Warren. They said that was the government intention.

  5. Owlmirror says

    the Customs and Border Protection agency decided to try him again and this time urged the judge to not allow Warren to bring up the cruel policies of Donald Trump as a defense. […] I do not know if the judge agreed to the request or not

    The linked text does state: “The federal judge overseeing the trial barred Warren from mentioning the president”, so we have to infer that the judge at least partly agreed with CBP.

    I’m not sure they thought it through. If the CBP policy of (presumably) letting people die in the desert isn’t based on the federal government’s policy, then what is it supposed to be based on? Their own institutional cruelty?

  6. Owlmirror says

    Sorry, didn’t look carefully enough. While it was reported later, the motion to restrict what the defendant could say was filed in October, and is linked to on the previous page.

    Document 363 Filed 10/31/19
    [ . . . ]
    The United States of America, by and through its undersigned attorneys, files its motion in limine to prevent the defense from mentioning the President, his administration, or his administration’s policies. Any reference to the President or his administration would be irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial.

    Warren’s lawyers responded the next day:

    Document 367 Filed 11/01/19
    [. . . ]
      In this highly unusual filing, the executive branch of the federal government invoked the Federal Rules of Evidence to prevent during argument “[a]ny mention of the President or the current administration.”
      First, the rules of evidence do not inhibit “[a]ny mention” of a party (or the head of the executive branch of that party) which is seeking to convict and punish the other party. Nothing in the rules of evidence restricts, or even could constitutionally restrict, the defense’s ability to characterize its case for the jury, and the order the government seeks would violate Dr. Warren’s rights under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Arguments legally can and almost always do include concepts and issues that were not necessarily evidence in the case, including commentary on likely motivations. This is simply not a rules-of-evidence situation.

    Looking carefully, I don’t see anything (freely available) that states that the judge granted the government’s motion about the president (there are grants of motion relating to some other matters, which a reporter might have confused with the president mention restriction motion)

  7. Owlmirror says

    Not a court document, but:

    A judge banned an Arizona border activist charged with harboring immigrants from mentioning President Donald Trump during his retrial, which began Tuesday.
    U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins granted a motion by prosecutors to bar the mention of the president during the second trial of Scott Warren, just before opening statements began. His first trial ended with a deadlocked jury last June.
    “There should be no politics in this case. I’m not going to allow it,” Collins said.

    The court documents from November 13 (when the motion was granted) are not freely available as I type.

  8. Owlmirror says

    One more article:

    The government attorney’s statement reminds us strongly that the cruelty is the point:

    Michael Bailey, U.S. attorney for Arizona, said he disagreed with the jury’s decision but added that it won’t change his office’s approach to cases like this.
    “Although we’re disappointed in the verdict, it won’t deter us from continuing to prosecute all the entry and re-entry cases we have, as well as all the harboring and smuggling and trafficking cases that we have,” Bailey said.
    “And we won’t distinguish between whether someone is trafficking or harboring for money or whether they’re doing it out of what I would say (is a) misguided sense of social justice or a belief in open borders or whatever,” he said.
    “Whatever the reason, if you are harboring or trafficking, we will prosecute when the case comes in,” Bailey said. “We’ve got plenty of work to do.”

    Also, Warren is not completely free yet:

    Warren still faces prison time or probation for separate misdemeanor charges related to leaving humanitarian aid on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge west of Tucson in 2017.

    After Wednesday’s verdict was read and the jury excused, U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins found Warren guilty of illegally operating a motor vehicle in a wilderness area in connection with the No More Deaths group’s aid drop at Cabeza Prieta.

    Warren was also charged with littering the refuge with abandoned property, but Collins acquitted him of that misdemeanor count because the aid worker was exercising his religious beliefs when he left the food and water there.

    Warren is scheduled to be sentenced on the illegal driving charge on Feb. 18. Walters said the misdemeanor could result in probation or up to six months behind bars.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *