From the upstairs back window of Zdravko Gagro’s home, you can clearly see the spot behind Mayor Rob Ford’s property where the chief magistrate confronted Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale.
But while Mr. Gagro – who first spotted the reporter and alerted his next door neighbour – was happy enough to show off this excellent sightline, he refused to describe the details of what he saw Wednesday evening.
Those details are at issue in the latest spat between the mayor and the city’s largest newspaper: Mr. Ford says his neighbour spotted Mr. Dale standing on a pile of cinderblocks and peeking over his fence; the reporter maintains he never left the grass of the public park where the mayor came charging at him with his fist clenched.
When the story first broke, Mr. Gagro confirmed parts of Mr. Ford’s account. On Friday, however, he would not answer questions on whether Mr. Dale had been on the cinderblocks, two of which are visible from that window sitting one on top of the other, or if the reporter had peered into the yard.
“I saw him,” Mr. Gagro said of Mr. Dale. “He wasn’t running for nothing.”
Mr. Gagro wasn’t the only one not talking Friday. The mayor himself would not comment on a new revelation that Mr. Dale’s BlackBerry had been used to make a phone call more than half an hour after the reporter discarded the device at Mr. Ford’s feet.
The battery had died on the mobile shortly before 8 p.m., Mr. Dale said. But a call was made from the device to Rob Andreacchi, an aide to Councillor Maria Augimeri, at 8:37 p.m. that night.
The Globe and Mail viewed Mr. Andreacchi’s phone Friday and its log showed the call from Mr. Dale’s number. Mr. Andreacchi texted back at 8:51 p.m.: “Hey. Saw I missed your call. Whatsup?” The message was not returned.
It was unclear how the mysterious call would be explained, but security camera footage may help settle where Mr. Dale was when the mayor confronted him: a camera, mounted on the back corner of Mr. Ford’s house under the eaves, sits directly in front of the spot where Mr. Dale was standing.
Taking a photo over a fence wouldn’t be grounds for a trespassing charge – it’s only trespassing if you are on private property, said Peter Jacobsen, a lawyer who regularly represents The Globe and Mail. There are civil actions that can be taken, such as suing for breach of privacy, but one would have to prove damages, he said.
Accessing someone’s cellphone could also be considered a breach of privacy, depending on the circumstances, he said.
Bob Hepburn, a spokesman for The Star, said Friday the newspaper has no intention of taking legal action against Mr. Ford for his treatment of Mr. Dale Wednesday night or against the person who accessed Mr. Dale’s phone.
He confirmed Mr. Dale had given a sworn, videotaped statement to police, an indication of how seriously the force was taking the investigation.
A police spokesman would say only that the investigation was continuing and no charges had been laid as of Friday evening.