Ex-immigration judge guilty in sex-for-status case
The Toronto Star (Canada), April 21, 2010
A former immigration judge has been found guilty of trying to coerce sex from a South Korean refugee claimant in return for a favourable ruling on her case.
'He knew that what he was doing was wrong,' Ontario Superior Court Justice Thea Herman said Wednesday morning in finding Steve Ellis guilty of breach of trust and an Immigration and Refugee Protection Act charge of bribery.
'Mr. Ellis abused his position to his own advantage.'
Ellis, 50, who is also a former Toronto city councillor, showed little reaction to Hermans ruling at first, but at one point raised his head and sighed.
John Rosen, Elliss lawyer, had argued that his client might have behaved inexcusably toward the then 25-year-old refugee claimant, Ji Hye Kim, but he never asked for sex in exchange for giving her refugee status.
Crown attorney Lynda Trefler alleged that Ellis, named to the federal refugee board in 2000, plotted the womans seduction from the time he first looked at her file.
Two visits to the womans restaurant workplace and a follow-up coffee date formed part of 'a detailed and deliberate plan to manipulate her psychologically' and get her into bed, Trefler said.
The judge agreed.
'There is no doubt that Mr. Ellis intended to use his public office, in particular, his considerable power over Ms. Kim, for his own benefit, that is, for an intimate relationship with Ms. Kim,' Herman said.
'Mr. Ellis literally held Ms. Kims life in his hands,' Herman said in her 28-page ruling. 'He toyed with her right up to the end.'
Heightening interest in the trial was a 40-minute videotape of the Sept. 26, 2006, coffee date taken by Brad Tripp, Kims Canadian boyfriend at the time and now her husband.
Suspicious of Elliss intentions, Tripp secretly wired Kim for sound and videotaped the conversation from a rented vehicle parked across the street from a coffeehouse patio.
Kim told reporters outside court that she was very happy with the result, which shows that Canadian justice applies to judges as well as others.
'Im just glad that no one will have to go through what I went through,' she said.
Her husband praised her as brave and strong. Tripp said he hoped her case sends a message to others that people can stand up to a judge and prevail.
Rosen said that he and his client were disappointed with the decision but will not decide whether to appeal until reading it in its entirety.
Ellis told Kim in the secretly recorded conversation, played in court, that he had drafted a decision to refuse her application, which would lead to her deportation, but wanted to change his mind.
'Ive been thinking about you a lot,' he told her. 'I really want to be friends with you.'
Ellis also expressed misgivings: 'Im not supposed to do this, so dont tell your lawyer, dont tell anybody,' he said.
Ellis told Kim he had a loveless marriage and was planning to dump his Filipina mistress.
'I know youve got a boyfriend. Ive got a wife, so I mean, if we do things together on the side thats okay. Thats fine,' he told the claimant.
'Dont worry. Im not going to be demanding. Im not going to ask you to move in with me or anything like that… Im not going to fall in love with you.'
Ellis will be back in court for a sentencing hearing on June 4.