Mayor Rob Ford should know better than anyone that he's not exactly in the clear. In fact, the latest release of court documents in the never-ending crack scandal - which coincided with the OPP's announcement last week that it was stepping back from the Project Brazen 2 investigation - suggests Ford has a few "dirty cops" in his pocket who may have been involved in efforts to retrieve the crack video.
This thing is not over by a long shot. It's only grown bigger and badder. If anything, the OPP's pulling the plug provides more clarity for Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair. It's up to him and the provincial Crown's office attorneys now to charge Ford.
Whether the Crown will pursue charges remains in question. In that regard nothing's changed. In the public mind, the dark cloud hanging over Ford's head may have lifted a little, but there's no vindication.
To be sure, the news that the OPP was backing out, reportedly over a disagreement with Toronto police over whether Ford or alleged drug dealers who made the video were the ones being extorted, was shocking.
This is not the first time we've heard the theory that Ford was the victim of extortion. Wiretaps on which gang members boasted of squeezing the mayor for six figures in return for the crack video were reported weeks ago. Police heard Mohamed Siad in a wiretap discussing meeting with Ford to ask for $150,000 for the video.
But if Ford was being extorted or blackmailed, that doesn't mean he didn't send out his own men to bust some heads in an effort to retrieve the video.
As soon as the OPP's takeover of Brazen 2 was announced, media reports hinted that its oversight might be short-lived. OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis retired at the end of March, and the new guy taking his place, Vince Hawkes, has other fish to fry, including cutting costs.
At his inauguration in Orillia, he mentioned how much complex criminal investigations are costing. The OPP was committing significant resources to the Ford oversight role and had put one of its top investigators on the job. It seems the new guy doesn't want to carry Blair's water or be part of the chief's political play.
Blair's move to involve the OPP was always about providing political cover. He really had no choice after Doug Ford formally complained to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director about the chief's having it in for the mayor.
But it was a risky move for Blair from the get-go. When an investigation has been so carefully controlled, the last thing Blair wanted to do was involve outsiders. He knew the moment he got others involved, the entire investigation could become more politicized.
The OPP's play, though it validates Blair's fears of politicking, changes nothing, at least where the Toronto police investigation of Ford is concerned.
The Toronto police have always had the power to lay charges. The reason they haven't is simple. The Crown's office isn't convinced there's enough evidence linking Ford to the retrieval of the crack video to convict him. We've suspected as much for months. If the alleged conspirator were anybody but Ford, there would have been charges by now.
But there are two important legal tenets to remember where the Crown is concerned. To lay a charge, the Crown must not only be satisfied that there's a reasonable likelihood of conviction, but must also determine if pursuing a charge is in the public interest. That's a high bar, and when you're talking about the chief magistrate of the largest city in Canada, it's even higher.
There's reams of evidence against Ford. It's just that most of it happens to be circumstantial.
And the most recent release of court documents suggests something scarier: a few dirty Toronto cops who may be the mayor's friends may have been involved in efforts to retrieve the crack video.
On that front, newly revealed police wiretaps show that Ford's alleged drug dealer and "friend" Alexander "Sandro" Lisi reportedly made several threats in the days after the crack video story broke.
These threats were relayed by someone called "Juiceman" to Liban Siyad and involve Lisi's saying he would come to Dixon with the cops if the video wasn't turned over pronto. Siyad was the young man who, a month before the crack story broke, received 1.5 pounds of marijuana from Lisi in return for the mayor's lost cellphone.
"Juiceman" told Siyad that Lisi had said, "If that video gets released I'm gonna run through all your houses. Me and all of the Toronto police." According to another police intercept, Monir Kasim, who was photographed with Ford and homicide victim Anthony Smith in front of 15 Windsor, told someone that the 'hood would be raided soon and Ford was "going mad."
The threats continued through "Juiceman" to Siyad, supposedly from Lisi: "You're fucking dead. You're fucking dead and everybody on your block is dead."
Lisi phoned Siyad directly on May 18, according to court documents, and said, "Yo, you see the heat, bro? You see the heat on Dixon, bro?" It would get "worse and worse. The whole place is going to get heated up all summer. The whole place is going to get lit up" unless the Ford video was returned.
Was Lisi bluffing about the cops?
On May 17, 2013, the day after the Gawker.com story broke about the crack video, Siad received a call from an unknown man who told Siad to "be careful of the guy [Mayor Ford] because he knows a few dirty cops," according to the court documents.
A couple of days later, police picked up a call between Siyad and Elena Basso, sister of Ford's high school chum Fabio.
Siyad told Basso he didn't have the video but was going to get it so she could give it directly to "Rob." Basso said, "I got Rob's people and cops coming here every fucking day." Basso continued, "G brought down heat on this whole fucking area." He's "got power," and "it doesn't matter who's right or wrong. We're going to feel the heat everywhere."
In all, the cops intercepted 50 calls between Lisi, the Basso residence and Ford's former head of logistics, Dave Price, on May 17, including one from Ford's cellphone to Lisi 10 minutes before the Gawker.com story.
The most recent court documents seem to tie Ford more closely to attempts to retrieve the crack video.
They also raise more questions about why charges haven't been laid. Perhaps that has something to do with those "dirty" cops.
Police timeline and a tale of the tapes
February 13, 2014 Police travel to Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California, and return with an external hard drive containing nine to 10 gigabytes of audio and video from the iPhone of the mayor's alleged drug dealer, Alexander "Sandro" Lisi.
March 5 Oversight of the ongoing investigation of Ford and Lisi (Brazen 2) is transferred to the Ontario Provincial Police at the request of Chief Bill Blair.
March 31 Vince Hawkes takes over as commissioner of the OPP.
April 3 OPP announce they're scaling back their oversight role, reportedly over a disagreement with Toronto police over whether Rob Ford was the victim of extortion.
April 3 Mayor Rob Ford declares himself cleared of all charges, despite the ongoing police investigation into extortion charges related to the crack video.
April 3 Publication ban is lifted on more police documents related to the extortion charges against Lisi.
According to the latest court documents:
- There was a flurry of calls after news broke about the crack video on May 16, 2013, between Lisi's cellphone and telephones associated with Ford, the 15 Windsor residence where the crack video was filmed and David Price, the mayor's former head of logistics.
- Someone identified as "Juiceman" called Liban Siyad on May 16, 2013, the man who a month earlier had the mayor's lost cellphone, to convey a message from Lisi that...
"if that video gets released, I'm gonna run through all your houses, me and all the Toronto police."
- Lisi called Siyad directly two days later to...
"put the message out that the whole place is going to get heated"
if the crack video was not returned.
- On May 21, Abdullahi Harun was shot at the 320 Dixon apartment building. Siyad brought him to hospital. On the same day a home invasion at 15 Windsor ended up sending Ford's high school chum Fabio Basso and his girlfriend to hospital.