Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs, his wife Marisa Hobbs, and Thunder Bay resident Mary Voss were charged with extortion by the Ontario Provincial Police on Friday, with Keith and Marisa Hobbs also facing charges of obstruction of justice.
The case is a complicated one that stretches back several months, and also involves Thunder Bay lawyer Alexander (Sandy) Zaitzeff — who's currently facing a number of sexual assault and assault-related charges — and police chief J.P Levesque, who himself has been charged with breach of trust and obstruction of justice.
- Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs, wife and 1 other charged with extortion
- Thunder Bay police chief charged with breach of trust
- Lawyer Sandy Zaitzeff released on bail
While many details remain unknown, or subject to publication bans, CBC Thunder Bay has compiled a timeline of the major events of the case based on the sworn information of provincial police officers who charged Hobbs and Levesque and the allegations contained in a civil lawsuit Hobbs has filed against Zeitzeff.
- On or about October 25, 2016: A video is recorded showing what court documents call "an intoxicated Alexander Sandy Zaitzeff" proposing marriage to Heli Kijanen. The video shows that Keith Hobbs was present when it was shot, among several other people. Court documents also allege that Zaitzeff posted the video to Youtube, or directed Kijanen to do so, on or after October 25.
- Between October 19 and November 20, 2016: According to court documents, Keith Hobbs, Marisa Hobbs, and Mary Voss allegedly attempt to induce Zaitzeff to purchase a house for Voss. In doing so, court documents say, they used "threats, accusations or menaces of disclosing criminal allegations to the police, thereby committing extortion."
- November 19, 2016: According to the statement of claim filed by Keith Hobbs, which hasn't been proven in court, Zaitzeff "verbally warns" Keith Hobbs that he would "submarine and bury him as a result of Mayor Keith Hobbs indicating that he would be contacting the police with information concerning serious allegations of sexual impropriety engaged in by Alexander Sandy Zaitzeff."
- November 25, 2016: Zaitzeff is arrested by Thunder Bay police, and charged with assault, sexual assault, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, and mischief, and is taken into custody. Several more sexual assault and assault-related charges involving more individuals have since been laid against Zaitzeff. All details are subject to a publication ban.
- Between Dec. 14, 2016 and Dec. 22, 2016: J.P. Levesque, "being an official, namely a peace officer, did commit a breach of trust in connection with the duties of his office by disclosing confidential information concerning Keith Hobbs", according to the information of OPP investigator Martin Graham.
- Between December 21, 2016, and May 7, 2017: According to court documents, Keith and Marisa Hobbs allegedly "attempt to obstruct the course of justice in a judicial proceeding by interfering in a criminal investigation into an allegation of extortion reported to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police."
- December 23, 2016: Zaitzeff's licence to practice law is suspended by the Law Society of Upper Canada.
- January 2017: OPP launch an investigation relating to "allegations of criminal wrongdoing" involving a municipal politician after receiving a request from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
- March 17, 2017: Keith Hobbs files a notice of action, signaling his intent to file a lawsuit against Zaitzeff and Kijanen.
- March 27, 2017: Zaitzeff is released on bail.
- May 23, 2017: Thunder Bay police chief J.P. Levesque, while on medical leave, is charged with obstructing justice and breach of trust by the OPP, over Levesque's alleged disclosure of confidential information about Keith Hobbs. The charges stem from an OPP investigation that dates back to January, and was requested by the RCMP.
- Thursday, May 25: The Thunder Bay Police Services Board places Levesque on administrative suspension.
- April 13, 2017: Keith Hobbs files a statement of claim against Zaitzeff and Kijanen over alleged defamation. According to the statement, Hobbs seeks general damages of $750,000, special damages of $100,000, and punitive damages of $100,000. The document notes that Kijanen was employed by Zaitzeff at "all material times."
- June 2, 2017: Deputy police chief Sylvie Hauth is appointed acting Thunder Bay police chief.
- July 19, 2017: Keith Hobbs goes on leave from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation's (MPAC) board. An MPAC spokeswoman says the leave is for 90 days; it's unknown whether Hobbs requested it, or if it was initiated by MPAC.
- July 21, 2017: Ontario Provincial Police issue a release indicating Keith and Marisa Hobbs, as well as Voss, have all been charged with extortion. Keith and Marisa Hobbs are also charged with obstruction of justice. OPP Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne told CBC News on Friday that the charges stem from the same investigation that led to charges against Levesque.
Dionne told CBC News on Friday that it was Levesque who requested the OPP investigate the allegations of wrongdoing by a municipal politician.
She refused to comment on any potential links between the investigation that has ensnared both Levesque and Hobbs and the on-going criminal case against Zaitzeff.
Leave of absence
In a media release, issued on Friday, the City of Thunder Bay said members of city council received a closed-door briefing on the legal matters facing the mayor on Thursday evening. City officials are refusing to comment further on the charges.
Hobbs has requested a 90-day leave which was granted by council, according to city staff, and other councillors will continue to perform acting mayor duties on a monthly basis.
Toronto lawyers Brian H. Greenspan and Naomi Lutes, who are representing Keith and Marisa Hobbs, also sent a statement to media on Friday. It said that Keith and Marisa Hobbs "express their clear and emphatic denial of the allegations which today have been brought against them."
Keith and Marissa Hobbs, and Mary Voss, are scheduled to make a first appearance in court on September 26.
The next court date for J.P. Levesque is scheduled for August 17, when a judicial pre-trial is expected to take place.