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Sanctuary Jury Ends 7th Day Without a Verdict

Times Staff Writer

The jury in the sanctuary trial of 11 church workers accused of conspiring to help illegal aliens from Central America enter the country resumed its deliberations Tuesday, and later adjourned after its seventh day without a verdict.

The jury, which had recessed Friday, spent 6 1/2 hours more Tuesday deliberating the 30-count indictment against the clerical and lay workers from southern Arizona and Nogales, Mexico. The panel members left the federal district courthouse here having asked no questions or given any indication of the progress of their deliberations.

But some defendants were already declaring that they had won a sort of victory over the government in the trial.

“Whatever the verdict, if the government’s intention was to intimidate, to stop the movement, it has failed,” defendant Sister Darlene Nicgorski said Tuesday. “The government is in a no-win situation: The people in this are people with conviction. We are dedicated. . . . The church is not going to back down from a ministry.

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“In that sense, the government has already lost. Even if some of us are convicted. Even if some of us have to do some time. We have spoken out and the issues have reached a broader public. This backfired on the government. Whatever the verdict, it’s not the end. It’s just the beginning.”

Nicgorski, 41, of Phoenix, faces six charges of conspiracy and helping illegal aliens from Central America. Like others in the nationwide sanctuary movement, she considers the aliens to be refugees fleeing political repression in their homelands.

She conceded that the prosecution, which began with indictments in January, 1985, has reduced or eliminated the defendants’ efforts to help refugees by requiring them to be in court four days a week during the six-month trial.

“We are no longer now doing the direct refugee work,” said Nicgorski, who formerly coordinated the screening, orientation and transportation of refugees in Arizona for the Chicago Religious Task Force on Central America. “But the work continues. Other people are doing it.”

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