Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Shannon Kari, National Post
TORONTO – A former immigration adjudicator and Toronto city councilor has been convicted of offering to write a favourable refugee claim in exchange for sexual relations.
Steve Ellis, 50, was found guilty Wednesday morning of one count of breach of trust under the Criminal Code and also of illegally seeking a benefit contrary to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Thea Herman concluded that it was clear that Ellis was seeking to trade sex for a positive ruling when he met with Ji Hye Kim at a Toronto coffee shop in September 2006.
“We can do things together on the side,” is a “euphemism” for a sexual relationship, said Judge Herman as she read out her verdict ruling.
“This was not a conversation between two equals,” said the judge, who observed that the actions of Ellis were a “marked departure” from what is expected of an Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator.
“Mr. Ellis owed a responsibility to the public and the refugee claimants who came before him,” said Judge Herman. “He literally held Ms. Kim’s life in his hands as he leafed through her file. He was trying to use his considerable power for his benefit,” she added.
The central piece of evidence at the trial was an audio and video recording of the meeting, made by Ms. Kim and her boyfriend(now husband) Brad Tripp.
The pristine quality recording was played in court during the trial and showed Ellis talking about how he wanted to help Ms. Kim, even though refugee claimants from South Korea are rarely successful.
Mr. Tripp and Ms. Kim were visibly pleased at the verdict. “I am very happy,” said Ms. Kim. “Justice was served,” he husband added.
The young woman hugged federal prosecutor Lynda Trefler who told Ms. Kim this was a “David and Goliath” type of experience.
The idea to record the September 2006 meeting was that of Mr. Tripp, who was concerned when Ellis visited the restaurant where Ms. Kim worked on two occasions, after her refugee hearing.
“We had no idea what was going to happen. Otherwise it would just have been Ji Hye’s word against his,” said Mr. Tripp outside court.
Ellis remains free on bail pending his sentencing hearing on June 4. He declined comment. His lawyer John Rosen said he was “disappointed” with the verdict and “one of the options” is an appeal.
Ms. Kim was accused by Mr. Rosen during the trial of being willing “to do anything” to get her status as a legal immigrant in Canada, which she adamantly denied. He noted that the couple approached the media with the recording of the meeting, before speaking to police.
Mr. Rosen also unsuccessfully argued that his client was not explicitly asking for a sexual relationship in exchange for a positive refugee ruling.
Mr. Ellis was appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board as an adjudicator in 2000. He was dismissed in 2006 after the allegations by Ms. Kim were made public.