During a wiretap investigation of the Dixon City Bloods gang, Toronto police intercepted 50 conversations about Mayor Rob Ford the day after reports emerged of a video allegedly showing the politician smoking crack cocaine.
The Ontario Superior Court unsealed some of the intercepted communication Friday at the request of lawyers representing several media organizations, including The Globe and Mail. Justice Ian Nordheimer reserved his decision on whether to release wiretapped conversations involving the mayor's friend and former driver, Alessandro Lisi.
Mr. Lisi, 35, was charged in October with extortion in connection with a bid to retrieve the Ford video. Police allege he threatened Liban Siyad and Mohamed Siad, both accused of belonging to the Dixon gang. Mr. Lisi also faces several drug-related charges.
Mr. Lisi's lawyer, Seth Weinstein, told the court the wiretaps are the heart of the extortion case against his client and should remain under a publication ban. He said disclosing the details now could harm his client's right to a fair trial.
Provincial Crown attorney John Patton, who also argued to keep the wiretaps sealed, noted prosecutors don't yet know what motivated Mr. Lisi's actions.
Media lawyers are pressing for further disclosure of police affidavits submitted to court in January and March to obtain text messages and other phone records of Mr. Lisi, the mayor and two of the politician's former staff members, David Price and Tom Beyer. The lawyers contend the information is in the public interest.
The affidavits are part of Project Brazen 2, a sweeping police investigation that began 10 months ago, after reports of the Ford video surfaced. Portions of the affidavits were recently released, providing the first official police description of the infamous recording.
The mayor, who admitted in the fall to smoking crack cocaine, is running for re-election. He maintains he's not addicted to drugs or alcohol. Asked on Friday whether he was concerned that his name came up repeatedly in the conversations of suspected gang members, Mr. Ford told reporters to speak to his lawyer. The allegations against Mr. Lisi and Mr. Ford have not been tested in court and the mayor has not been charged.
Wiretapped communication unsealed Friday shows that Mr. Siyad and Mr. Siad – who police believe filmed the Ford video – talked to others about the mayor and the recording on May 17, 2013. In an intercepted conversation between Mr. Siad and Mohamed Farah, who tried to broker a sale of the video to the media, Mr. Farah told Mr. Siad money was finally available. (The U.S. website Gawker raised $200,000 for the recording.)
But Mr. Siad told Mr. Farah he was no longer interested. He was nervous. Police were in the neighbourhood.
With a report from Elizabeth Church