Rob Ford video suspected target in Lisi extortion charge
Ex-staffer of mayor says he passed tip about alleged crack video to police
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford huddled with family at his mother's home on Friday as it became clearer that the extortion charge against his friend Alexander Lisi is connected to the video of the mayor allegedly smoking crack.
On May 16, online gossip website Gawker posted a story about the surreptitiously recorded video. That night, according to police documents, Ford and Lisi exchanged a flurry of phone calls and text messages — 13 in all.
By 1:48 a.m., the documents say, Lisi was still on the phone, this time calling a crack house where the video may have been recorded.
That house is close to a residential complex on Dixon Road where police now say they recovered a video of Ford during the Project Traveller police raids in June.
Police surveillance records released on Thursday indicate that among those calls and texts from Lisi were messages to Mohamed Siad, an alleged gang member identified by two Toronto Star reporters as the person who was reportedly shopping around the Ford video.
Possible link to a murder
The records show Lisi spoke with Siad and Liban Siyad, who were arrested during the June 20 Project Traveller raids.
Siyad and Siad are named as the extortion victims by Lisi “by threats or violence or menaces to deliver said digital recording.”
The men are friends of murder victim Anthony Smith, who at one time posed with Ford in an infamous photo outside that same crack house.
It's believed by some friends of Smith, who was gunned down in March outside a nightclub, that he might have had the video stored on his cellphone.
The morning after the video story broke in May, troubling calls began filtering in to city hall, according to Mark Towhey, who served as the mayor's former chief of staff before being fired a week after the reports surfaced.
"There were a lot of phone calls coming into the office from people," Towhey told CBC News. "One of our staff received some information from someone he trusted that we didn't know — that whether or not there was a video, we couldn't tell. But that it might have been the motive for a murder."
Calls to release video to public
Towhey said neither he nor the staff could vouch for how accurate that information was, but they passed it on to police because “if there was any validity to it at all, it might fit into one of their investigations and they should have it.”
Ford had previously insisted there is no video. On Friday, however, his lawyer conceded that a video does exist, though he said nothing on the recording can prove it was crack cocaine that the mayor was smoking.
"I urge the chief of police to release the video as soon as possible to let the public decide what they see," said Ford's lawyer, Dennis Morris.
Police spokesman Mark Pugash said that day may come, but not until the evidence is reviewed by the courts.
"I know people are impatient, but it's our job to put the evidence before the court," he said. "Then the courts can decide what will be released."
With files from CBC's John Lancaster