Why Matt DeHart Won’t Be At Home On Bond For Christmas This Year…
Matt DeHart faces a very depressing and lonely Christmas in jail this year for reasons that are at best down to an extreme bureaucratic SNAFU, and at worst (and more likely) down to collusion between the Canadian and American authorities to stop the whistleblower talking to the press.
Matt crossed the Canadian border at Fort Frances, Ontario with his parents, Paul and Leann DeHart, on April 3, 2013. Having filed for refugee status, Matt was released on a $10,000 CAD performance bond in September of that year. He spent the next six months under 24-hour house arrest with his parents.
Though this period of confinement was stressful for all concerned (at first Matt was not even allowed out to visit a doctor or his lawyer), at least the DeHart family were together. However, that ended abruptly just after Easter in April of this year.
Having been forced to sell their home to pay for Matt’s legal fees fighting charges back in Tennessee, the DeHart family had been staying in a two bedroom, low cost surplus college housing unit just outside of Toronto. Because the accommodation was primarily for students, the DeHart family were only allowed to reside there on condition that they be willing to be reassigned to different units at short notice according to the needs of the college and its students.
On Friday, April 18, 2014 the DeHart family received such a notice saying that they were required to change units. The same letter stated that the new unit, located one floor up and a few doors down, would be available to move into at 3 PM on Tuesday, April 22, and that the move must be completed by 8 PM that night.
Unfortunately, with it being the long Easter holiday weekend, the DeHart family were unable to notify the Canadian Border Services Agency of this change in person, since their offices were closed from Good Friday through Easter Monday, and only re-opened on the Tuesday morning. They did however notify the CBSA office by email immediately.
On Tuesday, the DeHart family moved from their current unit, #413 to their new one, #509. The short-notice move was made all the more complicated by the fact that Matt wore an ankle bracelet. The DeHart family spent much of Tuesday coordinating with the company responsible for Matt’s RFID monitor, who were only able to come out and move the base unit at around 6 PM that night. Matt was unable to move until this had been done, otherwise the RFID alarm would be triggered. In addition to the RFID chip, however, it’s worth noting that Matt’s movements, should he venture out of range from the base station, were monitored at all times by GPS.
At 10 AM the next day, Wednesday, April 23, the DeHart family got a rude awakening; After receiving a harsh knock at their door, they were greeted by the sight of five police officers and a CBSA enforcement officer. They had come to arrest Matt for a bond violation.
The DeHart family hadn’t changed address, they’d merely switched college dorm rooms. They’d notified the CBSA office by email. Their technical infraction was not doing so in person, even though, given the timing, it was simply not possible. Most of the time such minor technicalities (and worse!) were brushed off with a slap on the wrist, so it was a shock to the DeHart family that Matt lost his liberty. The DeHarts also had to forfeit the $10,000 CAD bond they had put up but could ill-afford.
The timing was also very prescient, since Matt was due to meet with National Post journalist Adrian Humphreys later that week for what was supposed to be a follow up interview session for a story he’d been working on over a period of several months. Because of Matt’s arrest and subsequent incarceration, Humphreys was never able to talk to Matt again. He did however publish his story, which won a Silver COP Award Medal last month. You can read the award-winning story about Matt’s highly unusual case HERE.
Eight months after his re-arrest, Matt remains in immigration jail. He has a monthly status hearing, but he and his family are out of money and options and hold out little hope for his release.
Matt had his latest monthly detention hearing on Thursday, December 18. His father tells us Matt said he wanted to be very dignified. Matt told the board member via video link that he had nothing to add to his many earlier testimonies and he wished the member and the CBSA hearings officer a sincere Merry Christmas. This apparently caused the board member to pause (since he is used to getting expletives from detainees). He then wished Matt a Merry Christmas back. Matt’s father says it was “sort of like Snoopy and the Red Baron. Only, Matt didn’t get to fly away on a faux Sopwith Camel/doghouse.”
Matt’s next detention review hearing is on January 12, 2015.
Thanks to all who have supported Matt over the last year.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
With much love,
The Matt DeHart Support Cr3w,