Lisi out on bail; lawyer says media scrutiny 'very difficult' for his client
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's friend and occasional driver Alexander Lisi has been granted bail after appearing in court on an extortion charge.
Lisi, 35, appeared before a packed courtroom Friday morning, where he was released to the custody of his father on $5,000 bail.
Under the conditions of his release, Lisi must:
- Abstain from possession and use of non-medically prescribed drugs or narcotics
- Try to get a job or go to school
- Not possess more than one cellphone or pager, the phone number of which must be given to authorities
- Not move from his residence at 5 Madill St. without providing 24 hours notice
- Abstain from communicating directly or indirectly with the following named individuals: Liban Siyad, Mohamed Siad, Elaine Basso and Fabio Basso
- If Siyad or Siad are released from custody, he must not be within 500 metres of their residences
- Not attend to where the Bassos live
- Not possess any weapons
- Not associate with anyone known to have a criminal record, except when in the presence of counsel
Lisi is accused of making "extortive efforts to retrieve a recording," police said in a statement Thursday.
Police believe one of the two alleged extortion victims, Mohamed Siad, is the individual who was attempting to sell a now-infamous video file allegedly showing Ford smoking from what appears to be a crack pipe.
Siad and the other alleged extortion victim, Liban Siyad, were swept up in massive drug and weapon raids, dubbed Project Traveller, nearly five months ago.
Police allege the extortion took place sometime between May 16 and May 18.
Court documents show on May 17, Lisi phoned Siad, and the mayor repeatedly phoned Lisi.
During the proceeding Friday morning, Lisi's lawyers Domenic Basile and Seth Weinstein requested and received a publication ban on evidence described in court.
Basile and Weinstein later told reporters that a publication ban had been requested to protect their client's right to a fair trial.
Citing the ban, they would not comment on any of their discussions with Lisi, and asked that his privacy be respected.
"He has been hounded by the media," Basile said.
Weinstein added that the intense media attention on the case has "been very difficult" for his client.
Lisi's next court appearance is set for Dec. 6.
He was arrested Thursday, the same day Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair revealed that police had recovered a previously deleted video file that allegedly shows Ford smoking from what appears to be a crack pipe.
"It's fair to say the mayor does appear in that video," Blair said at a press conference Thursday morning.
Blair would not elaborate or give details on what he saw the mayor doing in the recovered video, but he did say he was "disappointed" by what he saw.
"This is a traumatic issue for the citizens of this city and for the reputation of this city and that concerns me," Blair said.
The police chief also said that, based on the video, there are no grounds to lay charges against the mayor.
Last May, U.S. website Gawker and the Toronto Star reported that a number of their employees had been shown the video.
Ford, who has repeatedly said he does not use crack cocaine and has denied the video's existence, remained steadfast following the new police revelations.
Emerging from his office hours after Blair’s comments, Ford said he has "no reason to resign."
"I'm sure everybody has seen the allegations against me today," Ford said to the throng of reporters gathered outside the doors of his office at city hall.
"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."
Also on Thursday, a police document used in the investigation that led to Lisi’s Oct. 1 arrest was made public, revealing that the police investigation was launched in the days after reports of the alleged video first made headlines.
The document chronicles the police surveillance conducted in the investigation led by senior Toronto police Det.-Sgt. Gary Giroux, and includes references to meetings and phone calls between Lisi and Ford, often in gas stations and abandoned parking lots, sometimes leaving behind packages in white plastic bags or manila envelopes.
The police surveillance teams also report that Lisi engaged several times in "counter surveillance measures" as he drove, prompting the use of Toronto Police Service aircraft to track his movements.
Giroux said Friday he has attempted to reach Ford to interview him.
“I’ve made the invitation through the mayor’s chief of staff, and that invitation I am going to pursue,” Giroux told reporters.
None of the allegations in the document have been tested or proven in court.
Lisi had previously been arrested in October on four drug-related charges, including trafficking marijuana.
Following his initial arrest, Ford defended his friend, calling him a "good guy."