TORONTO (AP) — New court documents released Wednesday suggest Toronto Mayor Rob Ford may have offered $5,000 and a car to suspected drug dealers in exchange for a video that appears to show him smoking crack.
The information is contained in police wiretaps of alleged gang members who spoke about delivering drugs to Ford and having pictures of him using drugs. One alleged gang member is heard telling another that he rejected the offer for the tape and planned to meet the mayor and ask for “150,” meaning $150,000.
On one wiretap on April 20, an alleged gang member is heard saying, “Rob Ford was smoking his rocks today” and that he would post a picture on Instagram. On another wiretap, one man says he has many pictures of Ford “doing the hezza,” which police say is known to be slang for heroin. Another man suggests those pictures would be worth a lot, the document says.
On Wednesday, Ford laughed and ignored questions as he left his office.
Ford, who’s become an international media sensation, acknowledged last month that he smoked crack in a “drunken stupor” about a year ago. He previously denied the existence of the video.
Ford has refused to resign as mayor of Canada’s largest city and financial capital, despite mounting pressure after a string of incidents that have embarrassed Canadians, from public drunkenness to appearing in another video that showed him threatening “murder” in an incoherent rant. Toronto’s city council has stripped him of most of his powers.
Ford admitted that he smoked crack after police said they had obtained a video that appears to show him puffing on a crack pipe as part of an investigation into his friend Alexander Lisi.
The newly released court documents say police heard on the wiretaps that Ford had his phone stolen or lost it at a home they believe to be a crack house and that Lisi was trying to get it back.
Police say they overheard that Lisi threatened to “put the heat on” the gang if he didn’t get Ford’s phone back and that the alleged gang members said they would not tolerate Lisi’s threats because they had a picture of Ford “on a pipe,” which police believed meant a crack pipe. Police say Lisi gave the men marijuana in exchange for the return of the mayor’s phone.
Dennis Morris, Ford’s lawyer, said the wiretaps are snippets of alleged gangsters who are talking among themselves.
“It’s very dangerous to put any weight into any of this,” Morris told The Associated Press. “There’s nothing to address.”
City councilor Joe Mihevc said police need to examine the allegations that Ford tried to obtain the tape.
“The mayor can’t come out and say, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,'” Mihevc said. “This man needs help. He needs a lot of help.”
Toronto Police Bill Blair declined to comment on the newly released documents. The wiretaps are evidence in the case against Lisi, who faces trial on drug and extortion charges. The mayor has not been charged.
“All of the evidence that was gathered in that case has been reviewed by investigators and with the Crown prosecutors in this case, and where reasonable and probable grounds to lay a charge exists, charges have been laid,” Blair said.
Police were in the midst of a drug and weapons investigation involving alleged members of the Dixon Bloods gang when the mayor’s name surfaced on wiretaps in March and April. Police didn’t open an investigation into Ford and Lisi until May, when U.S. website Gawker and the Toronto Star reported that alleged drug dealers were shopping around the crack video.
Ford says he has quit drinking and adopted a healthier lifestyle. And he’s not avoiding the spotlight. He’s agreed to appear on a Washington-based sports talk show to make NFL picks.
Councilor Janet Davis said the image of Ford laughing at the newest revelations demonstrates his arrogance and lack of judgment.
“If he laughed today, and thousands and thousands of people of the city of Toronto saw that he was laughing at what was revealed today, it will just simply deepen the anger toward this man,” Davis said.