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HAMMOND — The U.S. attorney's office on Monday filed legal papers addressing what it called "factual misstatements and baseless allegations" made by attorneys for a convicted former Calumet Township employee seeking a mistrial.

Ethel Shelton, 73, a former secretary for the township, has asked U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen to grant her a mistrial because of the methods used when a confidential informant collected evidence from her office. Shelton also has accused the government of failing to disclose that information until the eve of the trial. 

The government said in a brief filed Monday it "strains credulity" and "is hard to fathom" why Shelton was surprised about the identity of the confidential informant, because he had a distinctive accent and idiosyncratic way of speaking that "come out crystal clear" on recordings.

Though the informant's identity was not disclosed until shortly before trial, his identity was obvious from discovery material provided earlier, the government said.

"The government disclosed this fact early in its discovery production and has never claimed anything to the contrary," prosecutors wrote. "There is nothing 'surprising' or improper about the government using a confidential human source as an agent of the government, as an investigative technique."

The U.S. attorney's office said it provided required discovery material but "does not have the burden of interpreting the potential strategic significance of that evidence for the defendant's benefit."

A grand jury in December 2014 indicted Shelton, former Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin; Elgin's 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 in May 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.

Hunter was sentenced in June to time served, with one year on supervised release.

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

Shelton's motion for a mistrial remains under advisement. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled, court records show.

 

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Public Safety Reporter

Sarah covers crime, federal courts and breaking news for The Times. She joined the paper in 2004 after graduating from Purdue University Calumet.