But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the plastic jugs he left for the immigrants endanger wildlife, and this week Staton was sentenced in federal court in Tucson on a charge of littering. He was given one year of unsupervised probation and ordered to spend 300 hours picking up trash.
Mr. Staton had originally been fined $175, but seeing his actions as a humanitarian effort, refused to pay and insisted on a trial. Prosecutors, apparently seeing this as a larger statement in the immigration debate, asked for $5000 in fines and 5 years probation.
But the story gets even better:
The government, which Staton's lawyer estimated spent about $50,000 to prosecute him, broadly criticized him in a sentencing memo for what officially was a littering case. Attorneys, for example, noted that No More Deaths volunteers often wrote "buena suerte," or "good luck," on the water jugs.
"The obvious conclusion is that the defendant and No More Deaths wish to aid illegal aliens in their entry attempt," the memo said.
"His actions are not about humanitarian efforts, but about protesting the immigration policies of the United States," the memo said. A U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday.
Arguing that Staton had "haphazardly left water for illegal aliens, drug smugglers and/or dangerous felons," prosecutors succeeded in persuading a judge to prohibit him from setting foot in the refuge during his probation.
It seems obvious that the prosecutors wanted to make Mr. Staton's desire to prevent death by dehydration as snubbing his nose to U.S. immmigration laws, such as they are. I wonder if those same prosecutors have the cojones to prosecute the contractors and small busines owners who routinely hire the undocumented, thus providing a motivation for crossing.