TUCSON, Ariz. – Jurors found humanitarian aid volunteer Scott Warren not guilty Wednesday of intentionally harboring and concealing two undocumented migrants from the Border Patrol in the remote Arizona desert.
Warren, a longtime volunteer with humanitarian aid group No More Deaths, faced up to 20 years in prison. It was his second trial stemming from his January 2018 arrest in Ajo, about 100 miles southwest of Phoenix.
The 12-person jury in Tucson took just more than two hours to reach a not guilty verdict, striking a blow to federal prosecutors who opted to retry Warren after the first trial ended in a hung jury in June.
"The government failed in its attempt to criminalize basic human kindness," Warren told supporters outside the federal courthouse.
Warren declined to say whether, after his acquittal, he would return to the Arizona desert to continue providing humanitarian aid to migrants in the Ajo area.
Border agents arrested Warren, along with two undocumented migrants, Jose Sacaria-Godoy and Kristian Perez-Villanueva, on Jan. 17, 2018, in a building No More Deaths uses as a staging ground for water drop-offs in the desert.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office had accused Warren of intentionally shielding the two migrants to help them avoid Border Patrol detection and providing them directions to bypass a nearby checkpoint.
As U.S. District Judge Raner Collins read the verdict inside the Tucson courtroom, some Warren supporters gasped in relief while others broke down in tears of joy.
Once the jury left the courtroom, Collins issued a ruling on a separate misdemeanor case that Warren also faced.
He acquitted Warren on one count of abandonment of property for leaving behind water for thirsty migrants inside protected wilderness boundaries of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. The judge cited Warren's religious beliefs that had compelled him to carry out this work.
But Collins also found Warren guilty of a second count of operating a motor vehicle on a restricted road inside the refuge. He set a sentencing hearing for that misdemeanor for Feb. 18.
Follow Rafael Carranza on Twitter:@RafaelCarranza.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona border activist Scott Warren acquitted of harboring immigrants