Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said he will not resign after Toronto Police announced on Thursday they have recovered a video that appears to show him smoking crack cocaine and have charged his friend and occasional driver with extortion in relation to efforts to retrieve the recording.
“I have no reason to resign. I’m going to go back and return my phone calls. I’m going to be out doing what the people elected me to do and that’s save taxpayers’ money and run a great government that we’ve been running,” Mr. Ford told a crush of journalists outside his office.
In a statement lasting just one minute, the mayor also said: “I think everybody’s seen the allegations against me today. I wish I could come out and defend myself, but unfortunately I can’t because it’s before the courts.”
Mr. Ford spoke to reporters three hours after Police Chief Bill Blair said Toronto Police have recovered the video that allegedly shows the mayor using illegal drugs. Earlier in the morning, court documents revealed that the mayor became the focus of a police investigation after the video surfaced.
“The TPS is now in possession of a digital video file and that evidence will be presented in court” relating to the extortion charge, Chief Blair said told reporters on Thursday.
He said the mayor appears in the video, adding: “I’m not going to get into the detail of what activity is depicted on that video.”
Alexander Lisi, 35, was arrested and charged with extortion on Thursday. He allegedly “made extortive efforts to retrieve a recording,” police said in a news release.
Chief Blair’s revelation confirms bombshell reports that emerged in May about the existence of a video allegedly showing Mr. Ford smoking crack cocaine.
The court documents released earlier in the day refer to police surveillance that shows multiple meetings and phone calls between Mr. Lisi and Mr. Ford.
Chief Blair said his officers have not “yet” met with the mayor. “My people have done everything in their power to gather the evidence that is required in this case,” he said in response to repeated questions from reporters on why Mr. Ford had not been interviewed. “You can’t compel people to co-operate in those investigations.”
Mr. Ford arrived at city hall just before 12:30 p.m., taking a back door into his office.
Chief Blair said he has watched the video, which contains audio as well as visuals.
“As a citizen of Toronto, I’m disappointed,” he said. “I know this is a traumatic issue for the citizens of this city and for the reputation of this city and that concerns me.”
Despite recovering the alleged video, it should come as no surprise that the police have not laid a charge of illegal drug possession against Mr. Ford, said Daniel Brown, a Toronto criminal defence lawyer.
“Without any witness who is willing to come forward and offer a statement as to what the mayor is doing on that video, and probably short of testing the substance itself and proving what it actually was, it would be a challenging prosecution and would likely fail,” Mr. Brown said.
Chief Blair said police computer technicians recovered the video file on Tuesday from a hard drive that was seized on June 13 as a result of the Project Traveller investigation. The file had been deleted, Chief Blair said.
“The digital video file that we have recovered depicts images which are consistent with those that have previously been reported in the press,” he said.
Chief Blair also said: “The evidence is being reviewed.”
In the days following the reports of the video surfaced in May, which appeared first on the U.S. website Gawker.com and The Toronto Star, Mr. Ford said: “I do not use crack cocaine. Nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.”
Mr. Ford also said: “As for a video, I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen, or does not exist.”
With reports from Greg McArthur, Patrick White and Elizabeth Church