Immigration judge sentenced to jail after trying to bribe refugee claimant for sex

A former immigration judge who tried to pressure a refugee claimant into having sex in return for a favourable decision was handed an 18-month jail term Thursday.

Steve Ellis, 51, was convicted of breach of trust and bribery after being caught on videotape as he sat on a Starbucks patio in the Annex suggesting to Ji Hye Kim that he could approve her claim if they had sex.

Kim was concealing a tape recorder and her boyfriend, Brad Tripp, was across the street with a video camera.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Thea Herman said Ellis’s actions undermined public confidence in Canada’s immigration and refugee system and required a period of incarceration.

In breach of trust cases, the overriding principles in sentencing must be denunciation and deterrence, she said.

The Crown had asked for a penitentiary sentence of between three and three-and-a-half years. The defence had asked for a conditional sentence to be served in the community.

Ellis showed no emotion but mouthed some words to family members as he left the courtroom with a court security officer.

Herman said while she accepts that Ellis suffers from bi-polar disorder that may have affected his judgment, “he knew what he was doing was wrong… This was not an impulsive act.”

She found the “power imbalance” between Ellis and the then 25-year-old woman was an aggravating factor, particularly because he was aware Kim had suffered abuse at the hands of men in her native South Korea.

“He took advantage of the power he had over her.”

However, the judge said Ellis had an “otherwise unblemished career” and this was “not a pattern of conduct.” She also noted the tremendous impact on his family.

Tripp and Kim, who are now married, said they were relieved the case is over and they can move on with their lives.

Ellis is a lawyer and former Toronto city councillor.

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