American Joe Callahan at the Ontario Court of Justice in Thunder Bay where he pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting two people illegally trying to cross the border into Canada. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)
A Thunder Bay judge is expected to sentence an American man Thursday for aiding and abetting two people illegally trying to cross the border into Canada.
Joe Callahan took the Salvadoran couple to Pigeon River in July of last year.
Sarah Martin is among several people who have come to Thunder Bay from the United States to show their support for Joe Callahan. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)Sarah Martin, of Minneapolis, MN, was among Callahan’s many friends and supporters who packed the courtroom during sentencing arguments yesterday.
“His lawyers made a very compelling case of how he was not a human trafficker, how he did this for humanitarian reasons,” she said. “He’s a lifelong activist and should be able to go home.”
Callahan’s lawyer, Francis Thatcher, said the 62-year-old American’s sentence should be a “significant” fine of $3,000 to $5,000.
But the Crown said regardless of intent, bringing people into Canada illegally puts the country in danger and asked the judge to impose a three- to six-month jail sentence.
Callahan regrets ‘generating trouble’
Callahan was arrested in July, 2011 and originally faced charges related to human smuggling and trafficking.
The arrest came after a Salvadoran couple crossed the border into Canada, looking for asylum.
Border officials found El Salvador passports and maps of the area near the Pigeon River border crossing, south of Thunder Bay, in his car.
Callahan spent 30 days in a Thunder Bay jail after his arrest and put up $75,000 bail to return to the U.S. while he awaited trial.
On Wednesday Callahan pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aiding and abetting under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
“I sincerely regret generating so much trouble and commotion for Canadian authorities … (and) my family and friends as well,” Callahan told the court before it was adjourned on Wednesday.
Callahan said he is not a human trafficker. He never accepted money from the Salvadorans and he said the idea of preying on immigrants is “abhorrent” and something he would never do.
Sentencing is scheduled for Thursday at 3 p.m.
Meanwhile the Salvadoran couple Callahan drove to the border had their application for refugee status denied.
Callahan’s lawyer said they are appealing.
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