Three months before Rob Ford was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, he was being investigated by Toronto police who believed a video that showed the mayor smoking crack could be used to press charges of drug possession against him, a newly released court document reveals.
In June, Toronto police asked the Ontario Court of Justice for permission to search three cellphones that they believed might be storing the footage. In the filing, Detective Constable David LaVallee wrote that the video could "provide evidence of … drug possession against Robert Ford."
This marks the first time police have explicitly linked Mr. Ford to a specific charge since their investigation began more than a year ago. The latest search-warrant application was made public on Wednesday as part of a continuing court challenge to unseal documents from the police investigation dubbed Project Brazen 2 that targeted the mayor.
The court documents contain allegations that are not proven. Mr. Ford has not been charged with a crime.
Mr. Ford, who dropped out of the mayoral race this month and will instead run for council, began chemotherapy last week. His brother, Doug Ford, is running for mayor in his place.
Dennis Morris, the long-time lawyer for the Ford family, said revelations about Rob Ford's past drug use are "secondary to what he's facing right now."
"I think, obviously, if he was running for mayor, the public would be more interested, but now that he's very ill, I don't think the public will think too much about it."
Rob Ford announced he was going to rehab the day The Globe and Mail revealed he'd been surreptitiously filmed smoking crack cocaine alongside his sister Kathy and former driver Alessandro (Sandro) Lisi this past April.
But Mr. Ford's apparent desire to change his life did not deter Toronto police. At the same time he was enrolling at GreeneStone treatment centre, detectives were reviving their stalled probe of him.
Project Brazen 2 investigators tracked down one of two men who brought the footage to The Globe and seized three cellphones they believed belonged to the man. Michael (Jugga) James was charged with weapons offences after investigators found brass knuckles at his home, although those charges have since been stayed. Police also arrested Mr. Lisi for breaching his recognizance. (Mr. Lisi is already facing an extortion charge relating to his efforts to retrieve an earlier drug video. He is barred from associating with anyone who has a criminal record – including the mayor's sister, Kathy Ford, who has theft, drug and fraud convictions.)
On June 9, 2014 – midway through the mayor's addiction treatment – police filed a 50-page search warrant application with the Ontario Court of Justice for permission to review relevant text messages, photos and videos on each cellphone.
Mr. James and Mr. Lisi were the official targets of the application. Officers believed the video would prove Mr. Lisi was in the same room as Ms. Ford. Detectives also weren't ruling out drug charges against Mr. James and Mr. Ford.
"I have not listed any drug trafficking or drug possession charges in this affidavit. However, I believe that the aforementioned video will be found on one of James' mobile devices and that it may provide evidence of drug trafficking and drug possession against James and/or drug possession against Robert Ford," Det. Constable LaVallee wrote in the information to obtain (ITO).
"I wish to make it clear that if it is lawfully found in plain view during the examination of the devices for the offences listed in this affidavit, I may use it as evidence in a further investigation into the drug charges."
Mr. Ford has admitted that he was smoking crack in the video viewed by The Globe and Mail. This is in contrast to the first video from May, 2013, which Mr. Ford has never commented on in detail.
It was after news of the first video broke that police launched Project Brazen 2. Last October, Mr. Lisi was charged with drug trafficking after months of surveillance that captured images of packages being handed off between Mr. Lisi and the mayor.
Earlier this year, Chief Bill Blair passed ownership of the case to the Ontario Provincial Police. OPP officials indicated no charges would be laid against the mayor based on current evidence, leading many to speculate the case against Mr. Ford was finished.
These latest court documents are the first indication that drug charges against Mr. Ford were still on the table as recently as this summer.
As part of the latest phase of Brazen 2, detectives interviewed both Mr. James and Kathy Ford.
Mr. James contacted The Globe the same day the video was filmed using a fake name. Four days later, two reporters met Mr. James, who identified himself as Jugga, and another man, who identified himself as S. Pablo. Each asked that The Globe print these aliases. Since their true identities were unknown at the time, The Globe declined.
While investigating Mr. James, police were told he had recently been attacked, including an incident at a Mississauga gas station where a man swung a machete at him. Mr. James required stitches on his hand. An individual told police Mr. James was being targeted over "territory."
Mr. James refused to discuss the early morning hours of April 26, the time the second crack video was believed to have been filmed in Ms. Ford's basement. He did confirm to officers that the crack video is on the iPhone they confiscated, although he denied he'd ever met Mr. Lisi and Ms. Ford.
The mayor's sister told detectives a different story.
Ms. Ford told Detective Joyce Schertzer that she knew Mr. James as a dealer and that he supplied the drugs that night. She also confirmed they were smoking crack cocaine, while her adult daughter slept upstairs, unaware of what was happening in the basement.
"Robert Ford arrived at the house intoxicated. He was not 'high' though when he arrived," the ITO reads, paraphrasing Ms. Ford.
Ms. Ford told police her brother was "drinking and 'kidding around fighting' with Lisi," in the basement, but "Mayor Ford never hurt Lisi. It was not physical."