Defense moves to drop all charges in Warren case

Tucson, AZ – Today in Tucson Federal Court, counsel for the defense in United States vs. Scott Warren will argue in a pre-trial hearing that all charges stemming from Dr. Warren’s January 2017 arrest should be immediately vacated due to the selective nature of Border Patrol’s enforcement activities.

The Motion to Dismiss due to Selective Enforcement filed earlier this year asserts that Dr. Warren’s arrest was a targeted act of political retaliation resulting from No More Deaths’ open criticism of Border Patrol’s human rights abuses. On January 17th, 2018, hours before the arrest, No More Deaths released a report documenting Border Patrol’s routine interference with humanitarian aid efforts. The report was released alongside footage collected over several years showing Border Patrol agents destroying and/or removing aid supplies left in the desert.

The motion references newly disclosed evidence that shows that Border Patrol and U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents collaborated to surveil Scott Warren for many months due to his status as a leading local organizer and critic of BP and USFWS policies.  Additionally, BP agents previously testified under oath that their surveillance of the Barn on the day of Dr. Warren’s arrest was motivated by intelligence that lead them to suspect the presence of undocumented immigrants in the area. However text messages between the stationed agents that morning include no reference to said intelligence and demonstrate that the agents were surprised to learn of the presence of migrants at the Barn.

Attempts by defense lawyers to obtain this evidence from the government have been met with consistent stalling and evasion on behalf of the government.  Last November, magistrate Judge Velasco ordered the prosecution to disclose any emails or texts sent to the two agents surveilling The Barn from 8:00 a.m. until these two agents went off duty on January 17, 2018.  Rather than complying with the order the U.S. Attorney’s office engaged in ex parte communications with Velasco to avoid disclosure, leading to the judge’s removal from the case altogether.  

To counter government obstruction and due to the fact that the majority of evidence in this case has been filed under seal, lawyers for First Look Media Works, publisher of The Intercept, recently filed motions to intervene to remove the restrictions on proceedings. “Sealing the exhibits…denies the public’s First Amendment right of access to judicial proceedings and judicial documents,” said David Bralow, First Amendment Counsel for First Look Media. “When proceedings are closed or documents are sealed, the public is deprived of the full benefits of openness. Unnecessary suspicion is introduced into the judicial process.  Secrecy breeds mistrust.”

In response to the growing evidence that the organization has been consistently targeted by Border Patrol, No More Deaths is asking supporters to call the U.S. Attorney’s Office and demand that the office drop all charges against Dr. Warren.