TORONTO – A lawyer for Toronto’s embattled mayor accused the city’s top cop of acting as “judge, jury and executioner” Friday, a day after police said they had obtained a copy of a long-rumored video that appears to show Rob Ford puffing on a crack pipe.
Ford’s lawyer Dennis Morris attacked Police Chief Bill Blair for saying he was “disappointed” in the mayor at a news conference announcing the video had been recovered from a computer hard drive during an investigation of an associate of the mayor’s suspected of providing him drugs.
“The chief said yesterday there is no evidence to charge him criminally in reference to this tape so what the heck?” Morris said. “He wasn’t elected by the College of Cardinals and he shouldn’t be pontificating.”
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 frequently made news for his increasingly erratic behavior.
Allegations Ford had been caught on video smoking crack first surfaced in May. Two reporters with the Toronto Star and one from the U.S. website Gawker said they saw the video but they did not obtain a copy.
Ford denied smoking crack and said at the time that the video did not exist. He also vilified the Toronto Star, accusing the paper of trying to take him down.
Morris called on police to release the video saying it likely shows the mayor smoking something other than crack.
“Let’s see it,” Morris said. “You can call it a crack pipe or a pipe to smoke a, b, c or d, so let’s see it.”
“There is a lot of insinuation,” Morris said. “What was he doing here, what was he doing there. Well, if he was doing something illegal charge him.”
Police spokesman Mark Pugash said police don’t have the authority to release the tape now that it is evidence before the courts. He said the courts will decide if and when the video of the mayor will be released.
Pugash said police have been seeking to question Ford. His lawyer has so far declined to bring him in.
Morris said Friday that Ford would now be willing to go view the tape but would not answer questions.
Ford, his chief of staff and his brother Doug, a city councilor, hunkered down at the mayor’s mother’s house for a two-hour meeting Friday amid growing calls that he step down.
Doug Ford said the chief erred when he made his personal opinions known to the public.
All four major Toronto newspapers have called on Ford to resign. On Friday, the Toronto Board of Trade called on him to take a leave of absence.
Ford made his only public comments Thursday saying he couldn’t defend himself because the affair is part of a criminal investigation involving an associate, adding: “I have no reason to resign.”
Police said the video will come out when Ford’s associate and occasional driver, Alexander Lisi, goes to trial on drug and extortion charges. Lisi, who was released on bail Friday morning, is accused of threatening two alleged gang members who had been trying to sell the video to the media for $100,000.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, a Ford ally, said he’ll meet with the mayor on Saturday and express the concerns of many councilors.
“I will hope that he’ll listen very carefully,” Kelly said. “I’m hoping that upon reflection that he’ll make the right decision.”
Kelly declined to say whether he’ll ask Ford to resign.
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 and voter’s may have the final word at next year’s election in which Ford has said he plans to run.
Associated Press writer Charmaine Noronha contributed to this report.