In an aggressive new stand, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s lawyer is challenging Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair to release the video that allegedly shows the mayor smoking crack cocaine, saying it is impossible to determine what the substance is while levelling accusations that the police have a “political agenda.”
The unexpected response to the chief’s bombshell announcement that officers had recovered the video came as Mr. Ford’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, acknowledged the mayor had shown “bad judgment” in the past, though he did not directly address the intensifying controversy.
Lawyer Dennis Morris, who blanketed media outlets Friday morning, said the mayor wants the recording to be aired so Torontonians can make their own conclusions.
“He’s happy that this thing is going to come to a conclusion in the sense that there is a video and he wants it seen by the public as soon as possible,” Mr. Morris said in an interview.
Mr. Morris accused the police of having a “political agenda,” saying Chief Blair had damned the mayor by leading the public to believe that the video shows him smoking crack. Mr. Morris said the substance could have been tobacco or marijuana.
“In the court of public opinion, by virtue of Chief Blair indicating he’d seen the video, my client has been found guilty and this is without having an opportunity to defend himself by viewing the video,” Mr. Morris said.
“He hasn’t faced any charges. He’s not going to face any charges and the Chief of Police, I suggest, could never under oath indicate that he’s seen Mayor Ford smoke crack cocaine on a video.”
Police spokesman Mark Pugash fired back at the suggestions.
“What I think we’re seeing here is the beginning of what will be a concerted attack on the investigation, the investigators and the chief. That doesn’t surprise me at all. We will respond and explain how we are abiding by the rule of law in what we’re doing,” he said.
Mr. Ford’s friend, Alessandro Lisi, who has been charged with extortion in relation to “efforts to retrieve a recording,” was released on $5,000 bail after a brief court appearance Friday morning.
Doug Ford echoed the challenge to the chief, telling AM640 that he would like to see the video released by police “and let the people judge for themselves.” He also accused Chief Blair of “politicking.”
“Rob hasn’t been charged with anything. He hasn’t broken the law and he’s been convicted. He’s been convicted by the media,” Doug Ford told the radio station, adding he didn’t think it was appropriate for the police chief to comment on evidence in a case before the courts.
When asked if the mayor would consider resigning or temporarily stepping down, Councillor Ford said he couldn’t comment. “We’re going to sit down and have a chat. We’ll see how it goes and we’re going to continue working hard for the taxpayers of Toronto.”
Councillor Ford also told host John Oakley that his brother may have made some mistakes. “Like we all have, Johnny, over the years, we use bad judgment sometimes,” he said. “Yes, Rob’s probably used bad judgment sometimes but I’m just concerned politics are playing a big part in this.”
Chief Blair revealed Thursday that police computer technicians had on Tuesday recovered a video showing the mayor that is consistent with a recording first reported by Gawker and the Toronto Star in May. The city’s top cop also said he had viewed the recording and was “disappointed” by what he saw.
Chief Blair said he would not release the video because it relates to the extortion case against Mr. Lisi.
Mr. Morris called it “fortuitous in timing” that police charged Mr. Lisi before announcing that the recording had been recovered, allowing them to say they would not release it because is evidence in an ongoing court case.
He called the tactic a “convenient” attempt to “shield” the video, saying: “In my eyes, it’s a political agenda.”
Mr. Pugash said the police were following the law in collecting evidence and putting it before the courts. “The courts decide what gets released. That happened in textbook fashion with the multi-hundred page document that was released yesterday and there will be more information coming out in the coming weeks.”
Mr. Pugash also said that before Chief Blair held his press conference on Thursday, he “sought and took advice from two very experienced and distinguished lawyers. He did his due diligence.”