Rob Ford Crack Video: The Police Have It
Former Washington, DC Mayor Marion Barry is no longer the last chief executive of a major North American city to be caught smoking crack cocaine. In May, the Toronto Star and Gawker.com reported that reporters of theirs had seen iPhone video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack, and cracking wise. The guys possessing the video – Somali-Canadian gangster drug dealers – wanted big bucks. The Star wasn’t paying, but Gawker launched a kickstarter to raise the $250,000 the guys wanted. By the time the money was in, the video had disappeared.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Police, who were already investigating drug dealing in the Etobicoke projects near where Rob Ford lives, turned their attention to the Mayor and one of his confidants, Alessandro Lisi. It’s alleged that Lisi was a drug dealer and acted as a sort of enforcer for the mayor.
Meanwhile, Ford and his city councilman brother, Doug, have spent almost every day since mid-May denying the existence of the video, “how can I comment on a tape that I haven’t seen or doesn’t exist” is the line. They’ve spent months lying to the people of Toronto and the journalists trying to get to the truth. The Toronto Star in particular, which is left-leaning and the only Toronto outlet to have seen and reported extensively on the video, was singled out for especial rage and insult. When the video story broke, Ford called Lisi. Lisi then called several people connected to the drug investigation. For some reason, the police had only recorded the call logs, but didn’t have warrants to tap the lines.
Home! Proud to work at the Toronto Star, an organization that invests in investigative journalism. A great day for journalism.
— robyndoolittle (@robyndoolittle) November 1, 2013
— Jonathan Goldsbie (@goldsbie) October 31, 2013
The Toronto Star was vindicated yesterday when the Toronto Police released almost 400 pages’ worth of surveillance information which led to Lisi being charged yesterday with extortion related to the video. At some point, the police’s drug investigation morphed into “Project Brazen 2”. It’s unclear whom Lisi extorted, and how. Contained within the information are hundreds of references to Ford – Lisi and Ford meeting in odd ways, at odd times, in odd places, away from possible bugs. Countersurveillance measures taken. Weird hand-offs of things at gas stations. It’s all very cloak & dagger and downright fascinating. On the cover of today’s Toronto Star will be a police surveillance photograph of a Toronto Star reporter meeting with Mohammed Siad, one of the middlemen brokering the sale of the crack video.
The kicker? At a late morning news conference Thursday, the chief of Toronto Police confirmed that earlier this week, police investigators had decrypted a hard drive from a computer taken in a raid of an Etobicoke drug house related to the investigations. On that computer, police found a video file that had been deleted. When they restored the file, police found the Rob Ford crack video, confirming that it was consistent with what Gawker and the Star had reported. Bombshell.
By the end of the day Thursday, even the right-wing Toronto Sun – the tabloid that had been Ford’s biggest and most strident cheerleader – was calling for his immediate resignation. Indeed, every single one of Toronto’s four major papers had called for Ford’s resignation – the Star, the Globe & Mail, and the National Post.
For his part, Ford held a press avail in the afternoon. He tersely said, “I wish I could come out and defend myself. Unfortunately I can’t. It’s before the courts. That’s all I can say right now,” adding, “I have no reason to resign. I’m going to go back and return my phone calls.”
Yesterday saw a fascinating display of journalism and truth leading to an investigation and, hopefully, accountability by someone as brazen as the name of the investigation suggested.