Former Thunder Bay, Ont. mayor wanted alleged extortion victim to 'know the s--t he's in,' court hears
The extortion trial against former Thunder Bay, Ont. mayor Keith Hobbs, his wife and a third co-accused continued on Tuesday.
Hobbs, his wife Marisa and Mary Voss each face one count of extortion for allegedly attempting to induce the victim to purchase a home for Voss. A publication ban prevents the alleged victim from being named.
The case, which is being tried before Ontario Superior Court Justice Fletcher Dawson without a jury, began on Monday at the Thunder Bay Courthouse.
The first Crown witness, Craig Loverin, returned to the stand on Tuesday morning. He said that he didn't want to get involved in the dealings between the defendants and the victim, but believed he was helping the victim.
Loverin said he had a phone call with Keith and Marisa Hobbs couple on Nov. 17, 2016, where the couple said they wanted to speak to the victim about a home for Voss. Loverin said he was confused about why the victim would need to buy a home for Voss, but was told by the Hobbs couple the situation would "all go away" if a house was bought.
The victim apparently considered a home in the price range of $200,000, but Loverin testified he later overheard a phone call between the Hobbs couple and the alleged victim where Marisa Hobbs demanded the value of the home be $400,000.
Loverin said he was contacted by Keith Hobbs, who told him not to get involved and threatened to have him charged with obstruction of justice.
As well, Loverin testified that later the same day, Keith Hobbs called him to meet in a grocery store parking lot and gave him a USB drive with videos and an audio recording of the alleged victim. Loverin said he was told by Hobbs, a retired Thunder Bay police officer, the recordings were obtained through a friend on the police force "who owes him a favour."
Hobbs said he was passing on the USB drive for the alleged victim to "realize the shit he's in," Loverin told the court.
Loverin said he first watched and listened to the contents of the USB drive, which he described as "rude, disgusting things," at home before giving it to the alleged victim. Loverin said the victim seemed very embarrassed by the content of the videos.
A few months later, Loverin encountered the then-mayor at a public event and felt awkward, he testified. "Your lies are going to wash up on shore," Loverin said he was told by Hobbs.
Brian Greenspan, the lawyer defending the Hobbs couple, began his cross-examination of Loverin later in the morning. Under questioning from Greenspan, Loverin said he was told by the alleged victim that he was loved like a son, and Loverin received two $10,000 payments after his children were born. Loverin also said he believes he is included in the victim's will, but doesn't know what he would stand to inherit.
Loverin said he assumed power of attorney status for the alleged victim in the fall of 2016, as well during a period of time when the victim was incarcerated.
Greenspan pointed to text messages between the alleged victim and Loverin, which suggested the victim had a history of "cash for silence" transactions to deal with embarrassing allegations. Loverin told the victim to "let it blow up in their face" in response to paying to keep people quiet.
Loverin testified that the victim seemed really happy on Nov. 18 after signing an agreement to to buy Voss a house valued at more than $400,000. The victim never expressed regret or said there was pressure to sign the contract, Loverin told the court.
That was the same day Loverin gave the victim the USB drive containing the videos, the court learned, with Greenspan inferring the contract had been signed before the videos were given to the victim.
Greenspan referenced text messages sent between the victim and the Hobbs couple, which included the victim thanking Keith and Marisa Hobbs for their help and support.
The relationship between the Hobbs couple and the victim turned sour after Nov. 20, Greenspan suggested, when the victim was arrested by police. The nature of those criminal allegations can't be revealed, as per a publication ban that is in effect.
Greenspan picked apart a large portion of Loverin's testimony, showing inconsistencies in times and dates when examined in court, versus statements that were made to police.
"That makes no sense at all," Greenspan told the court, referring to some of Loverin's timelines.
The lawyer also noted there was a major inconsistency in a supposed video showing the victim signing a "fake will." Loverin said under cross examination that he did not see a video showing the signing taking place, and that the victim had only suggested it existed.
Loverin also testified under cross-examination that he was concerned about the mental health of the victim, and was considering putting them on a "Form One," where they would be admitted to hospital for a psychiatric assessment.
The afternoon wrapped up with a partial cross-examination from George Joseph, the lawyer for Voss.
Joseph established how the victim viewed Loverin as a son, writing through text messages, "Craig is my son," and that he "grew up at my house and cottage and loves me totally."
Joseph said the relationship between the two was strong, with the victim not writing $10,000 cheques to most people, nor asking them for personal protection.
Joseph also established that Voss was a caregiver to the victim, which included staying at his properties. Loverin testified he was unsure of the relationship between the two, but believed at the time that Voss was a cleaner.
Loverin said he would help the victim if he could, and that he loved the victim as a parental figure.
He also said under oath that the victim could be volatile when drinking.
Cross-examination of Loverin will continue on Wednesday morning.
With files from Jeff Walters.