TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Jurors in the criminal trial of an Arizona border activist started deliberating Friday whether he was fulfilling a humanitarian mission when he helped young immigrants or was instead conspiring to harbor and hide them from Border Patrol agents.
Scott Warren, 36, the longtime border activist, was arrested in January 2018 at a building north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The jury's decision could have wide-ranging implications for the humanitarian aid groups who say their work has been increasingly under attack since President Donald Trump took office. Several hours after they received the case, jurors left the courthouse for the weekend with plans to return and resume deliberations Monday.
Warren, who is also a geography teacher, is one of nine members of the Arizona-based group No More Deaths who have been criminally charged for their work on the border, although he is the only one to face felony counts. The organization leaves water jugs in remote desert areas, recovers bodies of migrants who died and provides care to those injured.
But what Warren did was beyond all that, prosecutors said.
They said Warren plotted with another immigration activist to help the Central American men evade authorities and make their way north after crossing the border illegally.
"They were not injured. They were not sick. They were not resting and recuperating," prosecutor Anna Wright said Friday. "They were taking their time to get to the place they wanted to get to with all the help they could possibly need."
Wright argues that pictures the two men took with one of their phones showing them smiling and cooking prove they were never sick or injured.
Warren says he was fulfilling his duty as a humanitarian to help the men, who were dehydrated, tired and had blistered feet. He called a doctor to come check them out and carried on with his day.
Four days later, Warren says he came back to the camp and helped give the men directions so they wouldn't get lost on their way north. The government said he was telling them how to avoid a Border Patrol checkpoint, which Warren denied.
His attorney, Greg Kuykendall, said prosecutors haven't shown any real evidence that Warren did anything more than help two men who requested it.
"The point is everything in this case points to the fact that Scott Warren never intended to commit a crime. Scott Warren's whole life is about preventing suffering, alleviating suffering and providing humanitarian aid to those much, much less fortunate than him or than we are," Kuykendall said.