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18 months for immigration judge in sex case

TORONTO - A former immigration judge who asked for sex to approve an application from a Korean refugee claimant was handed an 18-month sentence Thursday.

TORONTO - A former immigration judge who asked for sex to approve an application from a Korean refugee claimant was handed an 18-month sentence Thursday.

Steve Ellis, 50, was found guilty of breach of trust and bribery in April.

A 2006 meeting was recorded by the woman, Ji Hye Kim, who took the matter to police.

Outside court Thursday, Kim expressed relief that the case was finally over after a "long, long four years."

"It sends a message that this can happen anywhere but we won't tolerate it as Canadians," added her husband, Brad Trip.

In a statement in a Toronto court, Ellis apologized and said he's ashamed. His psychiatrist had told a sentencing hearing that Ellis suffered from bipolar disorder, which leads to errors in judgment.

But the judge said Ellis breached the trust placed in him and that his actions undermine the public's confidence in the immigration system.

The prosecution asked for a sentence of 3 1/2 years, while the defence sought a conditional sentence.

Ellis was the adjudicator at Kim's refugee hearing in 2006.

A Toronto court heard the woman interpreted comments Ellis made as him proposing a physical relationship, which made her uncomfortable.

After he twice visited her at a restaurant where she worked, Kim, then 25 years old, and Trip, who was her boyfriend at the time, planned to secretly videotape her third meeting with Ellis at a coffee shop.

"I want to be good friends with you, and I know you've got a boyfriend," Ellis can be seen and heard saying on the video, which was played at his judge-alone trial.

"I've got a wife, so I mean, if we do things together on the side, that's OK."

Ellis then reassures her he's not going to fall in love with her. But he warns Kim not to tell her boyfriend about him because he might tell someone she was sleeping with Ellis and that's why he approved her application.

Ellis can be seen telling Kim he initially was going to deny her application, but that "for some reason I can't say no to you, I don't know why ... You're a really special person."

As they left the coffee shop Ellis kissed her on the cheek, Kim testified.

Kim, now a landed immigrant, was seeking asylum in Canada because of a physically abusive father and threats from money lenders in South Korea.

Ellis was suspended from his job after the charges were laid. The former Toronto city councillor and non-practising lawyer was appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2000.

Critics, including the Canadian Bar Association, have said political patronage was rampant at the board for years.

Changes to the selection process for board members were made in 2004 under the previous Liberal government and again in 2007 under the Conservatives.