• May 24th, 2024
  • Friday, 11:36:09 PM

Volunteers Sentenced for Putting Water in the Desert

On March 1st, four No More Deaths/No Más Muertes volunteers convicted of federal misdemeanors were issued fines of $250 per defendant and sentenced to 15 months of unsupervised probation. Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse, and Zaachila Orozco were convicted in January of this year for engaging in humanitarian work on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, a vast and remote area south of Ajo, Arizona. In the summer of 2017, one of the hottest on record in Arizona, the volunteers put out water and food on the refuge in the hopes of staving off death by dehydration for people walking in the desert.  They were charged several months later with Entering a Wildlife Refuge Without A Permit, Driving in a Wilderness Area and Abandonment of Property.

During the trial, Judge Velasco stated that “I think it goes without saying: You need water in the desert, and without water you will die.”

“The border crisis in this country is a matter of life and death.  History will not favor those on the wrong side of it,” said defendant Madeline Huse. “Our border policy continues to push people into remote and dangerous parts of the desert.”

“I think it goes without saying: You need water in the desert, and without water you will die.”
Judge Velasco

Over 10,000 individuals and 500 organizations signed onto a statement of support asserting that, faced with the same crisis of death and disappearance, they too would choose to put water in the desert. The statement was published in March 1st  Arizona Daily Star.

The sentencing comes on the heels of federal prosecutors forgoing criminal prosecution of a second set of No More Deaths defendants on the same charges.  On February 21, Caitlin Deighan, Rebecca Richeimer, Zoe Anderson, and Logan Hollarsmith agreed to receive civil infractions and a fine of $250 each in exchange for criminal charges being dropped. A ninth defendant, Scott Warren, faces misdemeanor charges for his work on Cabeza as well as three federal felony charges for other humanitarian aid work. Both trials are scheduled for May 2019.