Crown seeks three years for human smuggling deaths

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – The prosecution is seeking three years in prison for an Akwesasne man for his part in a 2015 human smuggling attempt across the St. Lawrence River that resulted in two deaths.

Judge Rick Leroy heard sentencing submissions this morning (Thursday) after 39-year-old Louie McDonald of Snye, Que. was found guilty on two counts of manslaughter and one count of failing to comply with a probation order, following a trial. He was acquitted on a conspiracy charge.

While “lives were lost, never lose sight of that” and McDonald had two previous smuggling-related convictions, Crown attorney Andre White tempered his remarks saying McDonald had a “good potential for the future.”

“I don’t expect to find him before the court again,” White added. He added that it was “hard to fathom” why McDonald would get involved in this type of smuggling “for a few hundred dollars.”

Two young men from India drowned Sept. 2, 2015 after a Seadoo capsized near the east end of Cornwall Island on the St. Lawrence River. An Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service investigation uncovered a human smuggling attempt to bring three people from India into the United States via Canada.

The slim-built McDonald with thick-rimmed glasses was wearing cuffed blue jeans, a purple dress shirt with a bolo tie and had his dark hair in a braided rattail. He sat beside his defence lawyer, Ian Paul, during the proceedings. Three people – presumably family members – were in the public gallery.

Paul argued the “Excise Act related conviction does not translate into an inherently dangerous boating situation,” and that McDonald’s previous criminal record shouldn’t be given weight in determining the sentence.

Paul also suggested McDonald’s moral blameworthiness was at the low end of the scale and that he had a positive pre-sentence report, noting his client is remorseful, and a Gladue report – a pre-sentence report that focuses on an offender’s Aboriginal background. The report noted that McDonald’s great-grandfather was in the residential school system, which would be a “significant” mitigating “factor” for sentencing.

Court heard that McDonald had been under the impression he was smuggling several pounds of marijuana, only to be faced with humans to smuggle when he showed up carry out the deed.

Paul recommended a sentencing range from a suspended sentence to a year-and-a-half in jail, after credit of approximately four months for time served in pretrial custody.

Judge Leroy will deliver the sentence in one month.

A 26-year-old man from Hogansburg, N.Y. was also charged with bringing aliens to the United States and conspiracy to bring aliens to the United States. His case went through the American judicial system.

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