Refugee board judge sought sex, court told

Posted by admin on Feb 23rd, 2010

Feb 23 2010, Toronto Star

He was a former Toronto councillor turned immigration judge and she was a Korean refugee claimant. They met at a coffee shop to discuss her case and, in a conversation she secretly recorded, he said he wanted to be her “good friend,” court was told Monday. “You’ve got a boyfriend. I’ve got a wife,” Steve Ellis told the 25-year-old woman, a federal prosecutor alleged Monday at the first day of his trial. “You know if we do things on the side, that’s okay. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be demanding. I’m not going to ask you to move in with me or anything like that,” Lynda Trefler quoted Ellis as saying.

Ellis, 50, stood beside his lawyer, John Rosen, Monday and pleaded not guilty to breach of trust and to an Immigration and Refugee Protection Act charge of bribery.

The meeting at a Starbucks patio on Bloor St. near Bathurst St. was also covertly videotaped from a distance by Ji Hye Kim’s then-boyfriend and now husband, Brad Tripp, Trefler said.

The video and audio have been synchronized and will be played in court Tuesday, the prosecutor told Ontario Superior Court Justice Thea Herman.

“I’m not going to fall in love with you,” Trefler quoted Ellis as saying on the tape.

He told her that although he had denied her refugee claim, he could still turn it around and, after he did, they could meet for a “big celebration,” the prosecutor alleged. Ellis kissed her as they parted, Trefler added.

Kim, now 29, took the stand Monday and said that she first met Ellis at her refugee hearing on July 17, 2006, where he was the adjudicator.

She was seeking asylum in Canada because of a physically abusive father and threats from money lenders in her home country of South Korea, court heard.

During the hearing, Ellis asked her where she worked, lived and her marital status, Kim testified through a Korean interpreter. As it ended, he said he would make a decision in 30 days, she said.

On Sept. 13, Ellis visited her at the Ninth Gate restaurant, on Jarvis St. at Front St., where she worked as a waitress, she said. She testified that she asked him about her refugee claim and he said it hadn’t yet been decided.

He came again for a meal on Sept. 22 and she asked again if he had made a decision. “He said that the decision wasn’t made because there were a few areas in which he’s confused,” Kim testified.

He suggested they meet for coffee four days later if she wanted to ask more questions about her case, she said. She agreed to meet him at 7 p.m. on Sept. 26. “He said he would come to my place to pick me up.”

Shortly after, she and her boyfriend devised their plan to record and videotape the conversation.

She waited for him at the Starbucks, not far from her Spadina Ave. apartment, where he planned to pick her up at 7 p.m., she said. At 5 p.m. he called her to suggest they meet earlier to go to a wine tasting, she testified. “I said no.”

At 6:50 p.m. he called her again after arriving at her apartment and finding she wasn’t there. “I told him to come to Starbucks.”

During the conversation, Trefler alleged, Ellis told her he could give a positive decision on her refugee claim “in exchange for an intimate relationship with her.”

After he made the proposition, he warned her that their meeting must be kept secret, Trefler said.

“He warned Ms Kim that if she would tell her boyfriend about their meeting Steve Ellis would be in trouble and she would lose her status.”

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