American caught in human smuggling case gets $5K fine
Joe Callahan drove a couple from El Salvador to the Pigeon River border near Thunder Bay
A Thunder Bay judge issued a $5,000 fine to an American man convicted of 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.
The sentence was passed on Thursday after the 62-year-old pleaded guilty earlier this week.
It falls in line with a request Callahan's lawyer, Francis Thatcher, was seeking.
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."
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.
Meanwhile the Salvadoran couple Callahan drove to the border had their application for refugee status denied.
Callahan’s lawyer said the couple is appealing that decision.