Thunder Bay

Former Thunder Bay mayor launches $11M lawsuit after being found not guilty of extortion

A lawsuit filed by former Thunder Bay, Ont. Mayor Keith Hobbs seeks nearly $11 million in compensation from 17 defendants, all connected to an extortion case which wrapped up in February.

Keith and Marisa Hobbs state they will be leaving Thunder Bay, changing names due to extortion trial

Mayor Keith Hobbs and his wife Marisa speak to their criminal trial lawyer Brian Greenspan outside the Thunder Bay courthouse in this photo. The Hobbses launched an $11M lawsuit against many of the people involved in their criminal trial. (Kris Ketonen / CBC)

A lawsuit filed by former Thunder Bay, Ont. Mayor Keith Hobbs seeks nearly $11 million in compensation from 17 defendants, all connected to an extortion case which wrapped up in February.

Hobbs, along with his wife Marisa and one other woman, Mary Voss, were all found not guilty of extortion.

The suit, which was filed in Toronto, states the Hobbs' have suffered after being falsely arrested, faced malicious prosecution, were part of a negligent investigation and were defamed, along with dealing with mental suffering. 

The lawsuit also alleges there were Charter breaches, and the couple is seeking punitive and aggravated damages as well as claims under the Family Law Act. 

The majority of the defendants named in the claim testified for the Crown. It includes one person, who was the alleged victim in the extortion case, who cannot be named because of a publication ban.

As for any monetary settlements, the Hobbs' also want pre and post-judgment interest amounts awarded to them.

Keith Hobbs, along with his wife Marisa are seen waiting for results during the 2014 election. Hobbs won the election over closest competitor Ken Boshcoff by 2,000 votes. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

In the claim, the Hobbs' state Keith never ran for a third term in office because of the extortion charges. 

"Keith was a populist Mayor who won elections in 2010 and 2014 by landslides, beating well-known politicians. Keith had every intention of running for a third term and prior to July of 2017, he had a very reasonable and realistic expectation of winning a third term."

"Due to being charged with extortion and with obstruct justice, his popularity plummeted. It was clear to any reasonable person that Keith had little hope of winning the election so he had to withdraw from seeking a third term. As a result, Keith lost his income as Mayor for four years in the total amount of $500,000."

The statement said the Hobbs' paid $500,000 in legal costs, plus $12,000 in travel costs for their legal team.

Most of the suit recaps the Hobbs' trial, with much of the statement detailing interactions between the alleged victim and the Hobbs', and how the alleged victim had a "great deal of influence" upon members of the community, including the OPP investigator, Martin Graham.

The statement of claim said Graham had "tunnel vision," a phrase commonly used during the trial and that, "Ontario is liable for the tortious conduct of Det. Graham."

"Det. Graham pursued the investigation with bias and tunnel vision and with a view to arresting and charging the plaintiffs instead of determining the truth. Det. Graham did not understand the elements of the offence of extortion and did not properly investigate the circumstances which lead to the making of the settlement agreement (the Agreement), a document at the centre of the prosecution. Det. Graham was negligent and he arrested the plaintiffs without reasonable and probable grounds."

The statement also said the Hobbs' were disappointed in how the evidence of two witnesses, Craig Loverin and Heli Kijanen was used by police in their investigation.

"Loverin, however, had little to no direct or independent knowledge of the material facts which were the subject matter of the prosecution against the plaintiffs." The same statement was made for Kijanen.

The Hobbs' said the goal of Loverin, and Kijanen was to have the alleged victim absolved of other criminal charges and had provided police with a false narrative of events, resulting in their charges.

The statement picks apart the police investigation, noting an interview done by the RCMP with Craig Loverin was inappropriate, as Loverin knew the officer conducting the interview.

"The statement is full of half-truths and outright falsehoods, and perfectly illustrates Loverin's loyalty to (the victim). The statement is largely made up of lies," it read.

Issues with OPP, Thunder Bay Police

"This interview was conducted, in part, by Cst. Rozic which was totally inappropriate given that the two men (Loverin and Rozic) were long time friends. Rozic could not possibly have an objective perspective during the interview or pursue a vigorous examination of Loverin as would be appropriate given the circumstances."

"This interview, which was compromised by Rozic, provided the foundation for the investigation which was later picked up by the OPP. The importance of this interview cannot be understated, especially considering that the OPP relied on this interview and, for some unknown reason, did not interview Loverin again about the facts that he alleged."

The Hobbs' also take issue with how officers conducted themselves, including with the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) and the RCMP.

"Cst. Waruk was a former TBPS officer. He had worked with Keith and the two of them had been friends. For these reasons, Cst. Waruk had been told by his command that he was not to be part of the investigation. Cst. Waruk disobeyed a direct order," the claim read.

The claim also stated two TBPS members did not put the Hobbs' in a good light, after interviewing witnesses involved in the extortion trial, which should have been considered differently by the OPP.

Personal friendships went sour

"This fabricated story turned Jae Elvish and his brother Jeff Elvish against Keith, a person who they previously considered a friend and a highly respected colleague. Jae Elvish and Jeff Elvish were later interviewed by Det. Graham and during these interviews, the two brothers both make prejudicial, biased, and false statements against Keith and Marisa which were relied on by Graham and negatively informed his investigative opinions and actions."

"Right from the very start of the investigation, Det. Graham was convinced that the Hobbses were guilty of extortion," the statement read. "Det. Graham did not investigate the facts and thereafter make reasoned conclusions. To the contrary, Det. Graham pursued the investigation with a lens to finding facts that supported his false conclusions and he ignored evidence which did not."

"He was solely focused on pursuing the charges against Keith because the matter was high profile."

Hobbs said the TBPS did not investigate his concerns involving the alleged extortion victim and claimed police erred in their investigation by instead focusing on him.

"Cumulatively, all of the rumors and false statements made by the defendant TBPS officers to the OPP had the effect of prejudicing Det. Graham against the Hobbses."

The statement highlights 17 issues with the OPP investigation and six with the TBPS investigation.

"The negligent conduct of each of the defendant police officers contributed to and caused the plaintiffs to suffer harm. This negligent conduct damaged the reputation of the plaintiffs, undermined the investigation against them, and created bias and prejudice against the plaintiffs which negatively influenced the decisions of the OPP Investigative Team and specifically Det. Graham."

"The defendants intentionally inflicted mental suffering against the plaintiffs when they subjected the plaintiffs to a malicious prosecution, false arrest, negligent investigation, defamation, and breaches of the Charter."

Loss of income

As for the damages, a number of claims were made by the Hobbs', mainly relating to lost income.

The statement said that Keith Hobbs was a sitting member on the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation board of directors and was removed from the board after charges were laid. The remuneration from the board was $30,000 per year. The statement said Hobbs would be eligible for another two terms on the board, totalling $180,000 in income.

Other lost income opportunities involve numerous cannabis cultivation businesses, including one at Fort William First Nation.

"The vote of Chief and Band Council was nine to one in favour with one abstention. The Chief advised Keith that it was a "done deal" but for one formality, consisting of two community consultations. At the first community consultation, Keith was criticized by a respected Elder and one Band Councillor specifically because of the criminal charges that he faced."

Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs alleges in his statement of claim that he would have earned $20 million in commissions through a cannabis cultivation arrangement. He claims extortion charges quashed that business deal. (Dave Rae/CBC)

The commission for Hobbs on that deal would have been $312,000, the statement said.

He also lost another $312,000, the statement read, in a cannabis operation with the Metis Nation of Ontario.

Finally, the statement alleged Hobbs, "was approached by other investment dealers in New York for additional joint venture cannabis investment projects. He would have earned additional commissions of at least 6% on further investments which were projected to be in excess of $20 million."

Loss of reputation, career

"Although the plaintiffs were found not guilty of extortion and the defendants were unable to prove any of the allegations against them, the damage to Keith's career is irreparable," the statement read, noting relationships and reputations with friends and family have been strained and "irreparably damaged."

"Due to the damage to their reputations in the community and the persistent stigma of the criminal prosecution, their home was repeatedly vandalized for over a year. They can no longer continue to reside in the community of Thunder Bay and will be forced to move and change their names. The plaintiffs plead that the defendants are liable for the plaintiffs' costs of having to relocate to a different community."

The Hobbs' have also said that they are having lasting financial impacts because of their charges, which has affected their credit rating, causing personal loans and mortgages to be called due. Their bank and credit accounts have also been terminated by several banks, the statement read.

The Hobbs' claim they have suffered damages for the following:

  • Damages for physical injury.
  • Damages for pain and suffering.
  • Damages for emotional and mental distress.
  • Damages for psychological harm.
  • Damages for loss of liberty, indignity and humiliation.
  • Damages for loss of time and routine of life.
  • Damages for loss of enjoyment of life.
  • Damages for costs of care, including future costs.
  • Damages for lost income including past and future income.
  • Damages for lost opportunity and earning potential.
  • Damages for loss of care, guidance, and companionship pursuant to the Family Law Act.
  • Special damages, including legal fees.
  • Aggravated damages for insulting, high-handed, malicious, and oppressive conduct.
  • Punitive damages for abuse of authority, malicious purpose, and wilful and/or grossly negligent disregard for the plaintiffs' rights. 

The Hobbs' want the matter to be tried in Toronto.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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