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Ely to Seek Delay in Sentence Due to Cancer Therapy

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An attorney for convicted embezzler James T. (Tom) Ely said Monday that he plans to ask a judge not to send Ely to jail next month because the former Ventura County Community College District trustee is still undergoing radiation therapy for cancer on his face.

“Tom still has to continue his treatment,” attorney James M. Farley said. “I have to request that he be given more time.”

Ely, 55, and his wife, Ingrid, were convicted in June of padding community college district expense accounts and charging bogus travel expenses over at least three years. They are scheduled to appear before Ventura County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Storch on Jan. 3, when the two were scheduled to begin their sentences.

In September, Storch sentenced Tom Ely--who was found guilty of 29 counts of fraud, embezzlement and conspiracy--to one year in jail and ordered him to pay $14,415 restitution for stealing at least that much from the college district.

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He sentenced Ingrid Ely, 48, who was convicted of one count each of grand theft, conspiracy and embezzlement, to perform nearly 500 hours of community service.

Storch, however, stayed the sentences because of Tom Ely’s ill health. Shortly after the trial ended, Ely was found by doctors to have cancer in his right cheek, right eye socket, the right part of his jaw and part of his nose.

Ely said he has been undergoing radiation treatment several days a week at UCLA Medical Center, a process that has caused patches of hair on the back of his head to fall out and his skin to turn pink. He said he has lost his sense of taste and the inside of his mouth has blistered.

During an interview at his Simi Valley home Monday, Ely said he is unsure when he will be finished with the treatment.

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“There is no way of telling,” Ely said. “Each tumor reacts differently. There is no way of predicting in advance when it’s going to be done.”

Ingrid Ely’s attorney, Willard P. Wiksell, said he must still decide whether to request an extension for his client so she can continue helping her husband with treatment. Wiksell said he has been busy with other cases and has not had a chance to review the matter.

Meanwhile, Deputy Dist. Atty. Carol J. Nelson, who prosecuted the Elys, said Monday that she was not surprised that Farley planned to ask for an extension.

“The day that Mr. Ely comes forward and says, ‘I’m ready and willing to pay my debt to society,’ I think I will faint,” Nelson said. “The fact that you have a chronic illness does not mean you are allowed to commit crimes” without punishment.

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Tom and Ingrid Ely continue to maintain that they are innocent. They are appealing their conviction, contending that they did not receive a fair trial or adequate representation.

“I don’t think I ought to be going to jail anyway,” Ely said. “Let’s face it, we went into a court where we could not get a fair trial.

“We had a defense that did not provide a defense. . . . We’re in the position where we have to put our faith in the appeal to clear everything up.”

Several times during the trial, Farley had expressed concerns over whether the Elys were receiving a fair trial. During the sentencing, he urged Storch to order a new trial for the Elys.

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But Storch upheld the jury’s conviction, saying the Elys’ trial was “abundantly fair.”


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