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U.S. to retry border-aid worker Scott Warren on charges of harboring migrants

U.S. to retry border-aid worker Scott Warren on charges of harboring migrants

Scott Warren would not comment on prosecutors’ plea offer, saying he and his defense team are ready for a second trial.

Federal prosecutors announced they will retry border aid worker Scott Warren three weeks after jurors couldn’t agree whether he committed any crimes.

The jurors deadlocked 8-4 on three felony charges against Warren, including one charge of conspiring to smuggle two Central American men and two charges of harboring them.

In a court hearing Tuesday, prosecutors announced they would retry him on the two counts of harboring, but will dismiss the charge of conspiracy to smuggle. Warren’s retrial date is set for Nov. 12.

“We will continue to defend (him) for as long as necessary,” defense lawyer Amy Knight said.

Prosecutors offered Warren a sentence of time already served if he pleads guilty to a misdemeanor of aiding and abetting entry without inspection.

He would not comment on their offer after the hearing but told a crowd outside the courthouse that he and his defense team are prepared for this second trial.

His case has been “deeply exhausting and troublesome” to his friends and family, Warren said.

When he finished reading a prepared statement, a chorus of his supporters chanted “drop the charges” for a few moments.

Warren’s case was the only one to go before a jury out of all felony human-smuggling cases brought to Tucson’s federal court in 2018, according to an investigation by the Arizona Daily Star.

The jurors in Warren’s case favored acquittal, with eight voting “not guilty” and four voting “guilty.” Each juror voted the same on each charge.

This was the first high-profile case that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona decided to retry under U.S. Attorney Michael Bailey, whom President Trump nominated and the Senate recently confirmed.

Out of all 361 cases that the Star investigated, Warren was one of the only defendants accused of not trying to make a profit.

He volunteers to search for distressed undocumented immigrants in the desert near Ajo with the Tucson-based humanitarian group No More Deaths. He’s found 18 sets of human remains while searching for those who are lost and leaving food and water for others.

Since 2001, more than 3,000 undocumented immigrants have died within the jurisdiction of the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, according to the examiner and Humane Borders, a border aid group.

Warren is among several No More Deaths volunteers who have been arrested in recent years in the course of their volunteer work, but he faced the most severe charges that border aid workers have seen in more than a decade.

Border Patrol agents ran surveillance on an aid station called “The Barn” in Ajo. They saw Warren talking to two undocumented immigrants there. One admitted that “Warren took care of them in ‘The Barn’ by giving them food, water, beds and clean clothes,” according to an agent’s written explanation of the charges in court filings.

As Warren’s trial concluded, his defense attorney told the jury that Warren was trying only to help two distressed men whom he encountered unexpectedly.

Federal prosecutor Anna Wright acknowledged that Warren wasn’t earning money off smuggling, but argued that caring for undocumented immigrants was a “cover story” for participating in a human smuggling ring with a nurse in her late 60s and a man who heads a migrant shelter in Mexico.

Contact reporter Alex Devoid at or 573-4417.

On Twitter: @DevoidAlex

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Alex has been with the Star since June 2019. He previously wrote about the environment for the Arizona Republic and he's a graduate of the University of Arizona.

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