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Convicted former Calumet Township secretary fights for mistrial in corruption case

Convicted former Calumet Township secretary fights for mistrial in corruption case

HAMMOND — Ethel Shelton, the former Calumet Township trustee office secretary who was convicted in April on conspiracy and fraud charges, is still fighting for a judge to declare a mistrial in her case. 

The 73-year-old is claiming in federal court she should be granted a mistrial because of the methods used when a confidential informant collected evidence from her office, and the government's unwillingness to disclose that information until trial. 

A grand jury in December 2014 indicted Shelton, former Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin, her son, Steven Hunter, and Alex Wheeler, a township department head in the corruption case. 

Elgin, who served as Calumet Township trustee from 2003 until 2014, was sentenced last month to 12 months and one day in federal prison for directing administrative staff, which included her son, to distribute her political fundraising tickets to employees and keep track of ticket sales.

A jury acquitted Wheeler of public corruption charges, but found Shelton guilty. 

Shelton on Monday filed a response to the government's opposition to her motion to grant her a mistrial, records show. 

Stafford Garbutt, a former strategic adviser to Elgin and a confidential government informant, testified Shelton helped distribute Elgin's political fundraising tickets, which employees were expected to sell or buy with their own personal funds.

Garbutt also testified he went to Shelton's office early so he could search her office undetected at the direction of FBI Special Agent Nathan Holbrook, records show. 

Shelton is arguing she should have had a reasonable expectation of privacy, to which the prosecutors refuted in their motion to deny her mistrial. 

The government further argued none of the evidence presented during trial included items Garbutt retrieved from her desk and that she had no expectation to privacy. 

Her motion for a mistrial fails to mention all of the recordings Garbutt made, witness testimony, photographs Garbutt took of items taken in plain view, and evidence seized from areas other than her office, records show. 

"As identified ... the defendant's motion implicates only a handful of documents, none of which were introduce as evidence," the government argued. 

The motion for a mistrial remains under advisement. 

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North Lake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting from UIS. Contact her at or 219-933-3206.

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