TORONTO – The Toronto police made a bombshell revelation on Thursday when chief Bill Blair announced that they have several videos, including what’s believed to be the video that depicts Mayor Rob Ford allegedly smoking crack cocaine.
The mayor said he has “no reason to resign.”
“I wish I could come out and defend myself. Unfortunately I can’t; it’s before courts,” Ford said during a quick scrum outside his office on Thursday afternoon.
Police recover video file
Earlier on Thursday, Chief Blair said the video was recovered from a hard drive seized during a drugs and weapons investigation dubbed “Project Traveller” in June. On Tuesday, the force’s computer technology section recovered the videos which were erased from the hard drives.
“The digital video file what we have recovered depicts images which are consistent with those that have previously been reported in the press,” Blair said.
Blair confirms Ford is in the video they retrieved, but did not confirm its contents.
“I think it’s fair to say that the mayor does appear in that video, but I am not going to get into the details of what activities are depicted on that video.”
Blair also said he is “disappointed” by what he has seen in the video.
“I know this is a traumatic issue for the citizens of this city and for the reputation of the city, and that concerns me.”
When asked whether Ford could face charges, Blair said there’s nothing in the video that would allow police to “form reasonable grounds” to support the laying of a criminal charge.
The chief also said police have other videos in their possession, but didn’t provide specifics. Police are reviewing their evidence, Blair said.
Blair made the comments after the release of a 474-page document with photos released Thursday morning. The document details evidence police collected in order to get a search warrant that lead to Lisi’s arrest.
The document also showed the alleged video was the focus of the police investigation. According to the document, Toronto police Det.-Sgt. Gary Giroux was assigned to investigate the existence of a cellphone containing the video.
As a result of discovering the video, Lisi was charged with extortion, police said. He is scheduled to appear in court on Friday, Nov. 1. Lisi, 35, was originally arrested on Oct. 1, as part of “Project Brazen 2,” and charged with four criminal offences, including trafficking marijuana. He had been out on bail when he was arrested again on Thursday.
Ford has been under intense scrutiny since May after American gossip site Gawker.com and the Toronto Star reported seeing the video that shows the mayor allegedly smoking crack cocaine.
680News hasn’t seen the video and cannot verify its authenticity.
Ford has repeatedly said he does not use crack cocaine and that the video does not exist.
On May 24, Ford called the drug use allegations “ridiculous” and said, “I do not use crack cocaine nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.”
“As for a video, I cannot comment on a video that I’ve never seen or does not exist,” he had previously stated.
Earlier on Thursday morning, Ford refused to comment on the release of the document, shouting at reporters gathered outside his house to “get off” his property.
Lisi under police surveillance
The document — some of the pages blacked out — also suggests that as police were conducting surveillance. They obtained photos of Lisi in several meetings with the mayor in different locations, including at an Etobicoke gas station, at football games and official functions.
According to the document, Lisi met with Ford at a soccer field on June 26.
They spoke for a few minutes then Lisi returned to his vehicle, retrieved a white plastic bag appearing to contain some items, put some cans of Minute Maid in it, then Lisi put the bag in Ford’s SUV, then walked back to meet up with Ford, the documents allege.
On July 11 Ford is seen on surveillance cameras parking at a gas station then walking straight to the washroom. Shortly after, Lisi arrives at the gas station. Lisi is seen walking near the mayor’s SUV holding a manila envelope.
“Lisi appears to be looking around, possibly scoping out the area,” the document says.
Lisi is then seen walking along the passenger side of the mayor’s vehicle then goes out of the surveillance tape frame and isn’t seen again. Ford spends about six minutes in the washroom then buys a pack of gum and drives away.
On July 28 police watched Lisi and Ford meet behind a school. After they left police seized garbage that Ford threw out and it contained two empty vodka bottles.
Infamous Ford photo
A photo of what looks like Ford with his arms around Anthony Smith, who was murdered in March and two other young men, who were arrested during Project Traveller, was also the subject of the police document. The photo, which was taken in front of a Windsor Road bungalow in Etobicoke, accompanied the stories published by Gawker and the Star.
The bungalow is the residence of siblings Fabio and Elena Johnson, who the document shows both have criminal records.
The document said police compared that photograph to an address that a confidential informant told police was a “crack house,” and found it had the same colour, overhanging light, white trim, brick colour and pattern.
Hours after the Gawker article was published, phone records show Lisi called Mohamed Siad, who the police document said “is believed to have been one of the people trying to sell Mayor Ford crack video.” He also called the “crack house” several times.
The Star has identified Siad as one of the men who showed its reporters the video. Siad was arrested in June as part of Project Traveller.
City staff concerned
Some councillors said the mayor needs to say a lot more and step aside.
Coun. Gloria Lindsay Luby, who represents Etobicoke Centre (Ward 4) — where Ford lives — said the mayor has lost the moral authority to lead.
“Many of us, including many of his great supporters, have lost our trust, our belief in him,” she said.
“I am terribly disappointed and hurt — that’s my dominant emotion,” Coun. Joe Mihevc said.
Arguments for documents’ release
Lawyers for various media organizations argued it was in the public’s interest to know the details within the warrant document.
The counter-argument was that innocent third parties, who have not been charged, should have a say as to whether the information is released.
Judge Ian Nordheimer ruled Wednesday there was no reason to give notice to those so-called third parties.
“There is a much larger agenda at play. The Lisi investigation does involve the mayor,” media lawyer Peter Jacobsen said who’s acting on behalf of the Globe and Mail and other media outlets.
“We all know that he’s a friend of the mayor’s. The whole issue I say is in the public interest. On top of that, it was what was put before the judge.”
The document, known as an Information to Obtain or ITO, is an affidavit that is filed by police in order to obtain a search warrant, Jacobsen explained. It is a public document.
After the decision, Jacobsen said “we are entitled to see the material that the Crown does not want redacted, and that no other parties are entitled to notice of this.”
The portions of the document that will remain under sealing order, at least until lawyers make further arguments next month, refer to innocent third parties not related to the essential narrative of the Lisi investigation. The Crown says those sections should not be made public.
–With files from Kevin Misener, Irene Preklet and The Canadian Press