Walter Staton, 27, is being punished for a good deed.
A Tucson man was found guilty by a federal jury this week of littering. His crime: Placing water jugs in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge for thirsty illegal immigrants.
Staton belongs to a group called "No More Deaths," which has the slogan "Humanitarian Aid is Never a Crime." An announcement last night by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona states that Staton was convicted after a two-day trial for "knowingly littering on a National Wildlife Refuge." He faces penalties at his August 11 sentencing that could include a year in prison or $100,000 fine.
An Arizona Daily Star story says Staton's the second group member to have gone on trial for littering; the first was Daniel Millis, found guilty by a judge at a September bench trial. No More Deaths has begun a letter-writing campaign to support its martyrs.
Staton's attorney, William Walker, argues that the full, unopened jugs of water left in the desert were not garbage. Only after the water had slated the parched throat of an immigrant did the plastic jug become garbage, and that garbage was not Staton's responsibility, he says in the Star.
A weak argument. Empty or full, the jugs represent litter because when he leaves them, Staton can't know if anyone will ever pick them up. And if you think a weary illegal immigrant is going to give a hoot, think again.
Besides, if it's really necessary to leave a trail of water stations in the desert to connect towns between Mexico and Arizona, you might as well build another road.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.