The claims made in a lawsuit by Scott MacIntyre, the former brother-in-law of Rob Ford, do not mark the first time allegations of serious criminal conduct have been made against young men previously coached by the mayor.
At least four former star players from the mayor's Don Bosco Eagles high school football team have either been convicted of, or charged, with offences including home invasion, armed robbery and assault causing bodily harm.
Aedan Petros and Rexford Williams were being held in the Metro West Detention Centre when Mr. MacIntyre was attacked in March 2012 – an attack he alleges in his lawsuit was orchestrated to keep him quiet about what he knew about the mayor's drug and alcohol use.
The attack followed the arrests of Mr. Petros and Mr. Williams several months earlier for a brutal home invasion.
Covering their faces with T-shirts, the two former Don Bosco linemen demanded money and drugs from their victim, unaware that his wife had fled and was contacting police. The victim was bound, and repeatedly kicked and punched. He was slashed with a butcher's knife several times and suffered significant blood loss, later requiring multiple staples to close his wounds. The knife and a sawed-off Winchester rifle were recovered by police.
Mr. Petros and Mr. Williams entered guilty pleas following a preliminary hearing and are now in the federal penitentiary system. The "All Canada Gridiron" website, which follows high school football in the country, lists the two young men as members of the Don Bosco "Hall of Fame" for their past accomplishments on the field.
Another former player, Nicholas Swaby, was a team captain at Don Bosco and named a Greater Toronto Area all-star in 2008, for his skills as a linebacker. He spoke proudly of his relationship with Mr. Ford in April 2010, at an event to launch the then councillor's campaign for Mayor. Mr. Swaby told the assembled crowd that Mr. Ford was someone he could "turn to for moral support," when things were difficult at home. Looking on, just behind Mr. Swaby, was Mr. Petros, one of the individuals invited on stage for the campaign event.
The public endorsement by Mr. Swaby was made just six months after he is alleged to have participated in the late-night beating of Christopher Skinner in the entertainment district of Toronto. Mr. Skinner was assaulted and then killed in October 2009 after he was run over by the driver of a black Ford Explorer, in an incident that police have alleged was sparked by the victim inadvertently brushing his hand against the vehicle.
Mr. Swaby, 23, was charged in November 2013 with assault causing bodily harm. Three other individuals were also arrested, including the alleged driver of the vehicle, who is charged with second-degree murder.
In March 2007, another "dominating lineman," according to the court testimony of Mr. Ford, was sentenced to five years in prison for the robbery of a taxi driver with a sawed-off shotgun. The mayor, then a city councillor, testified as a character witness on behalf of Bryan Young.
"He's an excellent football player. There's no doubt about it," Mr. Ford told the court. "If he did get a chance to play semi pro ball or even maybe a tryout for a CFL team, I think he could hold his own and even make it a career."
His former player was "very respectful" in how he conducted himself on the football field, said Mr. Ford. "We run a very disciplined program at Don Bosco. There is no swearing allowed, there's no drugs, there's no alcohol allowed, or you're immediate removed from the team," he testified. Mr. Ford admitted, when questioned by Justice Paul Robertson, that he knew very little about Mr. Young's life outside of football.
In an interview published in the Toronto Sun Wednesday, Mr. Ford defended his team. "I have coached thousands of kids in 22 years," he told the Sun. "Many have gone on to great things, including receiving scholarships. Some haven't...I can't control what they do after their football careers or what they do at 3 a.m."