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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's Alleged Crack Video Recovered By Police

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ROB FORD
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 25: Mayor Rob Ford held one on ones with some of his constituents today at the Etobicoke Civic Centre and held a scrum with media talking about his three years in office as mayor. Toronto, October 25, 2013. (Colin McConnell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) | Getty

TORONTO — TORONTO (AP) — Toronto police said Thursday they have obtained a video that appears to show Mayor Rob Ford smoking a crack pipe — a video that Ford had claimed didn't exist and has been at the core of a scandal that has embarrassed and gripped Canada for months.

Police Chief Bill Blair said the video, recovered after being deleted from a computer hard drive, did not provide grounds to press charges. Ford, a populist mayor who has repeatedly made headlines for his bizarre behavior, vowed not to resign.

Speaking outside his office door, Ford said with a smile: "I have no reason to resign." He said he couldn't defend himself because the affair is part of a criminal investigation involving an associate, adding: "That's all I can say right now." Toronto police conducted a huge surveillance operation into a friend and sometimes driver suspected of providing Ford with drugs.

The scandal has been the fodder of jokes on U.S. late night television and has cast Canada's largest city and financial capital in an unflattering light.

Ford faced allegations in May that he had been caught on video puffing from a glass crack pipe. Two reporters with the Toronto Star said they saw the video, but it has not been released publicly. Ford maintained he does not smoke crack and that the video does not exist.

Ford was elected mayor three years ago on a wave of discontent simmering in the city's outlying suburbs. Since then he has survived an attempt to remove him from office on conflict-of-interest charges and has appeared in the news for his increasingly odd behavior. Through it all, the mayor has repeatedly refused to resign and pledged to run for re-election next year.

But the pressure ramped up on Thursday with all four major dailies in the city calling on Ford to resign.

On Thursday, Blair said the video of the mayor "depicts images that are consistent with those previously reported in the press."

"As a citizen of Toronto I'm disappointed," Blair said. "This is a traumatic issue for citizens of this city and the reputation of this city."

Blair said the video will come out when Ford's associate and occasional driver, Alexander Lisi, goes to trial on drug charges. Lisi now also faces extortion charges for trying to retrieve the recording from an unidentified person. Blair did not say who owned the computer containing the video.

Blair said authorities believed the video is linked to a home in Toronto, referred to by a confidential informant as a "crack house" in court documents in Lisi's drug case.

The prosecutor in the Lisi case released documents Thursday showing they had rummaged through Ford's garbage in search of evidence of drug use. They show that they conducted a massive surveillance operation monitoring the mayor and Lisi following drug use allegations.

The documents show that friends and former staffers of Ford were concerned that Lisi was "fuelling" the Toronto mayor's alleged drug use.

The documents also detail evidence that led to Lisi's arrest on drug and extortion charges.

The police documents, ordered released by a judge, show Ford receiving packages from Lisi on several occasions.

"Lisi approached the driver's side of the Mayor's vehicle with a small white gift bag in hand; he then walked around to the passenger side and got on board," reads one document dated July 30, 2013. "After a few minutes Lisi exited the Escalade empty handed and walked back to his Range Rover."

Another dated July 28 says Lisi "constantly used counter surveillance techniques" when he met with Ford that day.

On August 13 documents say Lisi and Ford met and "made their way into a secluded area of the adjacent woods where they were obscured from surveillance efforts and stayed for approximately one hour."

Ford recently vouched for Lisi in a separate criminal case, praising his leadership skills and hard work in a letter filed with the court. The letter was part of a report prepared by a probation officer after Lisi was convicted of threatening to kill a woman.

Ford said previously that he was shocked when Lisi was arrested earlier this month, calling him a "good guy" and saying he doesn't abandon his friends.

The documents also say that Ford met Lisi through Payman Aboodowleh, a volunteer football coach at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School, where Ford coached the team while also serving as mayor. He told police he was "mad at Lisi because he was fuelling the mayor's drug abuse," the document says.

Former Ford staffer Chris Fickel told police he didn't know where the mayor got marijuana from, but "has heard that 'Sandro', Lisi's nickname, may be the person who provides the mayor with marijuana and possibly cocaine," the document alleges. However, Fickel added, he has never seen Lisi provide the mayor with drugs. The mayor would call Fickel and tell him to tell "Sandro" that "I need to see him," Fickel told police.

Ford's controversies range from the trivial to the serious: Walking face-first into a TV camera. Falling down during a photo op while pretending to play football. Being asked to leave an event for wounded war vets because he appeared intoxicated, according to the Toronto Star. Being forced to admit he was busted for marijuana possession in Florida in 1999, after repeated denials. Making rude gestures at Torontonians from his car.

Ford has long vilified the Toronto Star, accusing the paper of trying to take him down. Blair's revelations vindicated the paper's reporting.

"The mayor has said there wasn't a video," Toronto councilor Paula Fletcher Fletcher said. "He has said there is a conspiracy against him. With Chief's Blair's press conference I think that's put to rest."

Councilor Joe Mihevc said he continues to be shocked by the "depth and revelations that are coming out."

"The mayor has to come clean and do it as soon as possible," Mihevc said. "He needs to talk honestly about his use of illicit drugs."

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TOMORROW:

Alexander Lisi appears in court at 9 am.

We'll have to see if members of Ford's executive or his staff resign. When the crack video scandal first emerged many members of the Mayor's staff and the exec committee stepped down.

There's of course the media circus that will also follow.

THIS WEEKEND:

Will Rob Ford and his brother appear at their weekly radio show?

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The Globe and Mail's Marcus Gee:

That video he said does not exist? It exists, its reality confirmed by no less than the chief of police. This was not the invention of media “maggots,” in the mayor’s words. A video allegedly showing the mayor of Canada’s largest city smoking crack cocaine is in the possession of the authorities.

If that were not enough, the police have compiled a staggering trove of information showing the mayor consorting with a cast of shady characters that includes Alessandro Lisi, a man who stands accused of drug offences and, now, extortion. Whether the mayor himself ends up facing criminal charges, the information in this document places a stain on his office that cannot be removed except by his speedy departure.

The Toronto Star's editorial

Mayor Rob Ford has no place left to hide. No way to excuse or deny that he was caught on video allegedly smoking crack cocaine. A copy of the footage he claimed didn’t exist is now in the possession of Toronto police.

That video, recovered from an erased hard-drive, contains “those images which were previously reported in the press,” says Police Chief Bill Blair. More specifically, the images in question were reported in the Star after the video was witnessed by reporters Kevin Donovan and Robyn Doolittle. And they show the mayor of Canada’s largest city obviously impaired, puffing on what appears to be a crack pipe while uttering racist and homophobic slurs.

The Toronto Sun's editorial

While Ford may well want to carry on and rally the “Ford Nation” to his cause, city council will be all but paralyzed if he continues in office now, pretending that nothing significant has happened.

Simply put, Toronto is more important than its mayor.

The National Post's editorial

Mayor Rob Ford has not, as his supporters had hoped, kept his personal life free of embarrassing incidents. Though we believe a public official has a right to a private life, even a complicated or troubled one, serious questions suggesting Mr. Ford’s possible involvement in criminal behaviour can no longer be dismissed on this basis. Pending a resolution to this latest crisis in Mr. Ford’s private affairs, he should step aside from his duties as mayor of Canada’s largest city.

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The answer is probably no...

From this story:

Despite the pressure on Ford, municipal law makes no provision for his forced removal from office unless he's convicted and jailed for a criminal offence.

"There's nothing we can do at this point," Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey said at the legislature.

"The province has no power to remove anybody, and obviously we'd have to wait as the investigation unfolds as to next steps."

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"Finally, elected office is an enormous privilege and a profound responsibility. Acting dishonestly and divisively is damaging to everyone in the City. I hope the Mayor keeps that in mind as he decides what to do next."

Read his full statement

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rob ford presser

Rob Ford faces cameras outside of his office. Earlier on Thursday, police revealed that they had video of the mayor allegedly smoking crack.

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"I wish I could come out and defend myself. I can't. It's before the courts right now. That's all I can say right now."

"I have no reason to resign. I'm going to be out doing what the people elected me to do. Going to go back to return my phone calls, saving taxpayers money."

He answer no questions. Returns back to his office as reporters scream question.

"Is this appropriate behaviour for a mayor?," one reporter screams.

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Earlier this week, Mayor Rob Ford decorated his office as a haunted house for Halloween. He's still giving tours of his office to members of the public.

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bill blair

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair revealed that the police have video footage of Rob Ford that appears to match media reports.

Nathan Denette/CP

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Needless to say, social media erupted over the Rob Ford news this morning.

Here's a roundup.

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This is a sad day for the City of Toronto. As a Torontonian, and as a City Councillor for more than 20 years, it pains me to see the City of Toronto in the situation we currently face, and to see Council and the City of Toronto cast in this light on national television.

It is very unfortunate that the City and its residents have once again been thrown into such a state of uncertainty.

The Mayor of Toronto has a profound credibility problem. He is going to have to face Torontonians, and Council.

Our City deserves better.

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Councillor Paula Fletcher said to press that Ford should "step up and act like a mayor."

"I think many people have given the mayor the benefit of the doubt... That day is over," she said to media.

Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby said:

"I want the mayor to apologize to the people of Toronto. No one can deny, the story is now true.".

Earlier today councillor Shelley Carroll said the mayor must resign.

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Lisi is also facing drug-related charges. He has worked for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in the past.

It is alleged that: - the accused made extortive efforts to retrieve a recording Alexander Lisi, 35, of Toronto, is charged with: 1. Extortion

He is scheduled to appear in court at Old City Hall, on a date/time not yet determined.

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From a full chronology of Rob Ford scandals...

May 16, 2013: Reports surface in both the Toronto Star and U.S.-based news site Gawker that Ford was seen on video smoking what appears to be crack cocaine. The Toronto Star also reported that Ford can be heard referring to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau in disparaging terms. The video could not be independently verified, as the purported videographer was demanding a six-figure dollar amount for it. Ford has denied allegations of drug use and said the video does not exist. To date it has not surfaced.

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Media reports have said that the mayor went in through the back door, evading the dozens of journalists waiting outside his office.

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