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THUNDER BAY -- Joe Callahan will not be serving any more time in prison for trying to help his friends illegally enter Canada.
Instead, an Ontario Court of Justice handed down a $5,000 fine to the 62-year-old man from Minneapolis for his involvement. Callahan had pleaded guilty to helping his friends Niger Saravia Arevalo and Sonia Aviles cross into Canada on July 31, 2011.
The court heard the Salvadorans couple was fleeing from the MS13 street gang and had asked Callahan to drive them to the border. For his efforts, Callahan spent about 30 days at the Thunder Bay District Jail.
Callahan, known to many as a humanitarian and political activist, said he was relieved to hear he wouldn’t be spending any more time in jail.
“I’m going to call that a victory and we’re going to have a celebration back in Minneapolis,” Callahan said.
“We are relieved. We were hoping for this. I’ll be continuing to be active in the movement against the war and occupations by the United States in the Middle East and in other countries.”
In addition to the fine, Callahan will have to pay a $750 surcharge and may not be allowed back into Canada.
Callahan said he’s definitely not a human smuggler and has tried to work to try to put a stop to the exploitation of immigrants.
Despite what had happened, Callahan said he holds no ill feelings towards his Salvadoran friends and felt that they have become closer because of the experience.
He added that he’s grateful for the support of his family and friends who traveled as far as Texas and California in order to be by his side.
Callahan’s younger brother, Peter, said the sentencing was fair and was glad that more jail time was no longer an option.
“When the first charges were laid I thought they were going to throw the book at him,” Peter said. “He was obviously in the category of a do-gooder trying to help people out. He got talked into doing something that he shouldn’t have been doing.”
Peter said his brother is special guy and he and his family have often tried to keep Callahan out of trouble while he pursued his activism.
During final submissions Wednesday, Callahan’s lawyer had asked Justice Joyce Lynn Pelletier to consider a significant fine in the range of $3,000 to $5,000. Assistant Crown attorney Ronald Poirier argued further jail time in the range of three to six months.
Pelletier said she had many things to consider when sentencing Callahan.
She took into consideration that he had no prior criminal record, no connection to any criminal organization, did not profit from helping the couple and while misguided was acting for humanitarian reasons.
She said the main of her sentencing was to act as a deterrent for others and took into account that Callahan had spent time in a jail she described as having poor conditions.
Callahan has 60 days to pay the fine and will be meeting with border officers Friday.
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