A much-anticipated police affidavit detailing the relationship between Mayor Rob Ford and his friend Alexander Lisi was overshadowed when Toronto police said they have several videos in their possession, including what’s believed to be one of Ford allegedly smoking crack cocaine.
Police chief Bill Blair said that the videos were recovered from hard drives seized during a police investigation in June dubbed Project Traveller. On Tuesday, the force’s computer technology section recovered the videos which were erased from the hard drives.
“We’re now in possession of a recovered digital video file,” he said. “That file contains video images which appear to be those images which were previously reported in the press with respect to events that took place we believe at a house on Windsor Road in Etobicoke.”
The chief has viewed the Ford video, but he wouldn’t go into specifics.
“The mayor does appear in that video, but I’m not going to get into detail of what activities is depicted on that video,” he said.
“As a citizen of Toronto I’m disappointed,” Blair said. “It’s an issue of significant public concern.”
The video information was turned over to police investigators who Blair says gathered enough evidence to charge Lisi with extortion on Thursday. Blair didn’t say who was the target of the extortion. Lisi was expected to make a court appearance on Friday morning. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
No further charges have been laid but police are still reviewing the evidence and the investigation is ongoing, Blair said.
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.
In May, American gossip site Gawker.com and the Toronto Star reported that a video allegedly showing Ford smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine was being shopped around.
Ford said Thursday afternoon he would like to “come out and defend myself,” but he can’t because the matter is before the courts.
He said, “I have no reason to resign” and he would go back to work and do what he was elected to do which is to save taxpayers money. That was in sharp contrast from earlier in the day when a visibly upset Ford refused to comment on the matter and shouted at reporters to get off his property.
Ford has been under intense scrutiny since the initial crack video reports.
Previously, he has called the drug use allegations “ridiculous” and said, “I do not use crack cocaine nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.”
He has also said, “As for a video, I can’t comment on a video that I’ve not seen or does not exist.”
Earlier on Thursday, a Toronto police document was released by a Superior Court judge revealing that the alleged video was the focus of Project Traveller that led to dozens of arrests.
The voluminous document details evidence police collected in order to get a search warrant for Lisi. Lisi was arrested on Oct. 1 and charged with four criminal offfences, including trafficking marijuana. He was out on bail until his latest charge.
Det. Sgt. Gary Giroux — a senior member of the Toronto police force — was assigned specifically to investigate the existence of a cellphone containing the alleged video, the document stated.
Infamous Ford photo
A photo of 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 alleged video. Siad was arrested in June as part of Project Traveller.
Lisi under police surveillance
According to the document released Thursday, police were also conducting surveillance on Lisi and on June 26 saw him meet with Ford at a soccer field.
The document alleges that they spoke for a few minutes and then Lisi returned to his vehicle, retrieved a white plastic bag appearing to contain some items and put some cans of Minute Maid in it. He then put the bag in Ford’s SUV and walked back to where Ford was.
On July 11, Ford is seen on surveillance cameras parking at a gas station and 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 stated.
He 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 and 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 a garbage that Ford had thrown out and found it contained two empty vodka bottles.
Mayor’s staffers concerned
Friends and former Ford staffers were concerned that Lisi was “fuelling”‘ the Toronto mayor’s alleged drug use, the document revealed.
Former staffer Chris Fickel told police he didn’t know where Ford got marijuana from, but “has heard that ‘Sandro’ may be the person who provides the mayor with marijuana and possibly cocaine,” the document alleged. Lisi’s nickname is Sandro.
However, Fickel added, he has never seen Lisi provide the mayor with drugs. The mayor would call Fickel and tell him to tell “Sandro” that “I need to see him,” Fickel told police.
Payman Aboodowleh — a volunteer football coach at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School, where Ford used to coach — told police that Lisi met Ford through him. Aboodowleh told police he was “mad at Lisi because Lisi was fuelling the mayor’s drug abuse,” the document stated.
With files from The Canadian Press