We have images consistent with alleged crack video: Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair
Published Thursday, October 31, 2013 6:13AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, November 1, 2013 10:39AM EDT
In a stunning announcement, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said Thursday that police have recovered a video allegedly showing Mayor Rob Ford smoking from what appears to be a crack pipe.
The existence of the video was first reported by the Toronto Star and U.S. website Gawker in May.
Blair said a number of digital files were recovered after several computer hard drives were seized on June 13 in the course of so-called Project Traveller raids, which targeted guns, drugs and gang activity in the city’s west end.
On Tuesday, forensic teams were able to recover a deleted file that contained the video, Blair said.
He said the footage is "consistent with what has been described in the media," but would not detail what activities were depicted in the video.
Alexander (Sandro) Lisi, a friend of the mayor, has been charged with extortion in connection to the video, Blair said.
Police allege that Lisi, 35, made "extortive efforts to retrieve a recording.” He is scheduled to appear in court at Old City Hall at 9 a.m. Friday.
Blair added that evidence is still being reviewed and that further charges could be laid.
Earlier this month, Lisi was arrested on marijuana trafficking charges as part of the ongoing police investigation.
Blair said the recovered video does not support criminal charges against the mayor.
But he said he was “disappointed” after watching the footage himself.
"As a citizen of Toronto I'm disappointed," Blair said. "This is a traumatic issue for the citizens of this city and for the reputation of this city and that concerns me."
After yelling at reporters to get off his property in Etobicoke before Blair dropped the bombshell, Ford emerged outside his office Thursday afternoon to say he has “no reason” to resign.
“I wish I could come out and defend myself, unfortunately I can't because it's before the courts. That’s all I can say," he told reporters.
When the video allegations first surfaced in May, Ford said: “I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or does not exist."
One of two Toronto Star reporters who viewed the Ford video months ago, Robyn Doolittle, said her newsroom was elated when Blair made his announcement.
“It has been a long slog and we are thrilled,” she told CTV News Channel.
Before the police chief addressed the media Thursday, the Crown released more than 400 pages of a document used in the investigation that led to Sandro Lisi’s earlier arrest on Oct. 1.
That document reveals it was the Gawker.com and Toronto Star reports that sparked the investigation, code-named Project Brazen 2. It says police began an investigation within days and began surveillance on Lisi.
Police documented Lisi exchanging numerous phone calls with Ford, using four different numbers to reach him. For example, starting from Aug. 7, when police began tracking the phone numbers of calls to and from Lisi's cellphone, until Sept. 19, Ford and Lisi exchanged 349 phone calls.
On May 17, the day after allegations about the video surfaced, Lisi called Mohamed Siad, the man police believe was trying to sell the video to reporters.
Siad was arrested in June as part of the Project Traveller investigation.
Investigators also documented Lisi meeting with Ford, often in gas stations and abandoned parking lots, sometimes leaving behind packages in white plastic bags or manila envelopes.
In one incident on July 11, police followed Lisi to a west end gas station where Ford had just arrived. While Ford used the station's restroom, Lisi allegedly placed an envelope inside the mayor's Escalade. The two did not speak. The mayor then got back into his vehicle and drove away.
The police surveillance teams also report that Lisi engaged several times in "counter surveillance measures" as he drove, sometimes speeding to evade pursuit.
After police lost track of Lisi several times, they then began to track his movements using Toronto Police Service aircraft to follow him.
None of the allegations in the document have been tested or proven in court.
Toronto media lawyer Peter Jacobsen, who is representing several outlets including CTV News, said the massive document shows that “clearly, there was an investigation that (police) thought was worth doing.”
Jacobsen said the Crown released what was described “as the essential narrative related to Lisi.”
Jacobsen said he will also argue for the release of other documents which are not related to Lisi, but have been filed as part of the investigation. He said he’s hoping to get those released in the next couple of weeks.
Jacobsen said it’s very unusual for police to file so much material in connection with a relatively minor drug charge.
--With files from Angela Mulholland