Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Mayor allies call for video release

Allies of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford want police to release a controversial video that allegedly shows him smoking a crack pipe.

Backers of embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford have called for police to release a video that appears to show him smoking a crack pipe, as outraged citizens of Canada's largest city called for the mayor's resignation.

Mr Ford's lawyer and the mayor's brother, a city councillor, attacked Police Chief Bill Blair for talking publicly about the video, despite acknowledging it does not provide enough evidence to file charges against the mayor.

Police announced on Thursday that they had recovered the video during a massive surveillance operation of an associate suspected of providing drugs to the mayor.

Dennis Morris, Mr Ford's lawyer, said Mr Blair acted as "judge, jury and executioner" when he said he was "disappointed" in the mayor. Mr Ford's brother Doug said the chief erred when he made his personal opinions known to the public.

Mr Ford had claimed the video didn't exist and vowed not to resign, repeating the pledge on Thursday.

Voters could have the final word on the strange career of the populist mayor whose travails have captivated and embarrassed Canadians for months. Mr Ford has promised to run for a second term next year.

"I have no reason to resign," he told reporters with a smile, as his office welcomed visitors to check out its Halloween decorations.

The embattled mayor, who is the butt of jokes on US late night television, said he couldn't defend himself because the affair is part of a criminal investigation involving an associate, adding: "That's all I can say right now."

Mr Ford faced allegations in May that he had been caught on video puffing from a glass crack pipe. Two reporters with the Toronto Star with one from the US website Gawker said they saw the video, but it still has not been released publicly. Mr Ford has maintained he does not smoke crack and that the video did not exist.

He has long criticised the Toronto Star, accusing the paper of trying to take him down. The police department's revelations vindicated the paper's reporting.

Mr Ford was elected mayor three years ago on a wave of discontent simmering in the city's outlying suburbs. Since then he has survived an attempt to remove him from office on conflict-of-interest charges and has appeared in the news for his increasingly odd behavior.

But the pressure ramped up on Thursday with all four major dailies in the city calling on him to resign.

Cheri DiNovo, a member of Ontario's parliament, tweeted: "Ford video nothing to celebrate Addiction is illness. Mayor please step down and get help?"

Mr Blair said the video, recovered after being deleted from a computer hard drive, did not provide grounds to press charges against Ford.

"As a citizen of Toronto I'm disappointed,"Mr Blair said. "This is a traumatic issue for citizens of this city and the reputation of this city."

Mr Blair said the video will come out when Mr Ford's associate and occasional driver, Alexander Lisi, goes to trial on drug charges. Lisi now also faces extortion charges for trying to retrieve the recording from an unidentified person. Mr Blair did not say who owned the computer containing the video. Lisi was released on bail on Friday morning.

Mr Blair said authorities believed the video is linked to a home in Toronto, referred to by a confidential informant as a "crack house" in court documents in Lisi's drug case.

The prosecutor in the Lisi case released documents showing they had rummaged through Mr Ford's rubbish in search of evidence of drug use. They show that they conducted a massive surveillance operation monitoring the mayor and Lisi following drug use allegations.

The police documents, ordered released by a judge, show Mr Ford receiving packages from Lisi on several occasions.

Mr Ford recently vouched for Lisi in a separate criminal case, praising his leadership skills and hard work in a letter filed with the court. The letter was part of a report prepared by a probation officer after Lisi was convicted of threatening to kill a woman.

Mr Ford's controversies range from the trivial to the serious: Walking face-first into a TV camera. Falling down during a photo op while pretending to play football. Being asked to leave an event for wounded war vets because he appeared intoxicated, according to the Toronto Star. Being forced to admit he was busted for marijuana possession in Florida in 1999, after repeated denials. Making rude gestures at Torontonians from his car.

AP

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