Metro-East News

Lunching with the wrong guy led to felon Kelvin Ellis’ return to prison

His decision to have lunch with convicted felon Oliver Hamilton at a Hardee’s Restaurant in Caseyville in April led to a federal judge’s decision to return Kelvin Ellis to prison for a year, more than three years after he was released at the end of a 10-year sentence for corruption.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael Reagan on Thursday sentenced the 67-year-old former East St. Louis politician to four months in prison consecutively on each of three counts of violating supervised release by meeting with Hamilton and on separate occasions with other convicted felons.

At the time of the April lunch, Hamilton was a felon and had been convicted of stealing $40,000 from East St. Louis Township, where he served as supervisor, by fraudulently using a public credit card to make personal purchases. He is currently serving five years at a minimum security federal lockup in Marion.

Ellis could not be reached for comment. Reagan continued Ellis on bond and directed him to report to the Bureau of Prisons when notified by the U.S. Marshal’s office.

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Ellis, the former East St. Louis director of regulatory affairs, was sentenced in 2005 to federal prison on three corruption charges. The charges included tampering with a witness by agreeing that the woman should be killed. FBI operatives faked the woman’s death and showed her lying on muddy ground at Horseshoe Lake after supposedly being shot, court records showed.

Ellis was near to completing supervised release and was just 19 days short of being in the clear when he was photographed at the restaurant sitting at the same table and talking with Hamilton and a recently elected member of the District 189 School Board. In a court hearing in September, an FBI agent told Reagan that he hadn’t known Hamilton and Ellis would be dining and had just shown up for lunch himself.

Ellis’ attorney argued that a federal appeals court had recently tossed a case involving a felon who argued that the law pertaining to prohibitions against felons mingling with other felons was too vague to be enforced.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Norm Smith countered that while the appeals court had indeed ruled that the law was vague in that particular case, the time for Ellis to have appealed was when he was originally sentenced, not “...well into the terms of his supervised release.”

Smith, in documents filed with the court, stated, “Ellis...was not permitted to sit down for a meal or an extended conversation with a known felon without first receiving permission from his probation officer.”

George Pawlaczyk: 618-239-2625, @gapawlaczyk

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