Immigration judge guilty in sex-for-status scheme
Former immigration judge Steve Ellis offered to approve a South Korean woman's refugee claim in exchange for sex, a Toronto court has found.
On Wednesday, the 51-year-old was found guilty on breach of trust and bribery charges. Ellis, a non-practising lawyer and former city councilor, had pleaded not guilty in the case.
In 2006, he adjudicated a refugee hearing for Ji Hye Kim, who was 25 years old at the time.
The court heard that Ellis visited Kim twice at the restaurant she worked at. Ellis made comments to Kim that she interpreted as sexual propositions.
"I'm just glad that no one will have to go through what I had to go through," Kim said about the conviction.
When Kim met with Ellis next, she and her boyfriend secretly videotaped what transpired, then supplied the tape to CTV News.
The videotape shows Ellis and Kim at a coffee shop. Ellis says that he was in a loveless marriage and needed a girlfriend for "things on the side."
In exchange, he said he would see what he could do on Kim's refugee claim.
"I'm going to work on it," Ellis said. "I really want to be friends with you."
At trial, Ellis' lawyer argued that his client never explicitly asked for sex. But the judge ruled that Ellis' intentions were clear.
"It's nice to see that someone like us can stand up to a judge, and prevail," said Kim's husband, Brad Tripp, who was her boyfriend at the time of the incident.
Kim was seeking asylum in Canada, from a physically abusive father in South Korea as well as threats from money lenders, when the exchange with Ellis took place.
Ellis was appointed to his position at the Immigration and Refugee Board 10 years ago. He was suspended once charges were laid in the case.
"This is just an example of the law being applied being applied equally to everyone, regardless of his or her position," Crown prosecutor Linda Trefler said.
The Canadian Bar Association has said that appointments to the board were often made based on political patronage. However, amendments to the selection process were made in 2004 and 2007.
With a report from CTV's John Vennavally-Rao and files from The Canadian Press