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Why Didn't the Police Do More to Investigate Rob Ford?

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New details in the Ford investigation indicate that wiretap orders were approved for as yet unknown parties. This post is based on the information available at the time of its writing and will be updated if material new information emerges.

It's pretty shocking that after months of an expensive police surveillance, the most compelling evidence produced in the Ford investigation are photos of people acting suspiciously.

Criminal investigations of serious crimes are always about obtaining direct rather than circumstantial evidence wherever possible. They're about tapes, paper trails and drug tests, not semi-useless photos of people with envelopes and plastic bags.

So where are the tapes of phone calls and conversations, the lab tests, the search results from Ford's home, computer hard-drive, cell-phone and office? What explanation can Toronto Police Service offer for their apparent failure to obtain a wiretap order and search warrant for Rob Ford?

And why does Toronto Police Chief Blair give bizarrely short shrift to the most serious features of this case--the threats and violence by individuals apparently acting on behalf of the mayor, and potentially on his instructions?

Brutal pursuit of the video

Well before the story broke came the gangland murder of 21 year-old Anthony (Grenades) Smith in March of this year. Smith was in the photograph taken outside the now infamous crack house at 15 Windsor Road, where the video was allegedly recorded. This was also the residence of Ford's high school friends Fabio and his sister Elena Basso (Johnson) .

In June police were granted authority to search Lisi's phone records, which disclosed that Ford and Lisi spoke on the phone 7 times in the morning after Smith was killed.

Then, in the early morning hours of May 17th, as the explosive video story was breaking, Lisi was in feverish contact with Ford's director of operations, David Price, and several others. In a note reminiscent of Tony Soprano, Lisi also briefly called an anger management centre. Within 24 hours Price was musing "hypothetically" to Ford's chief of staff Mark Towhey about the impact of someone knowing the precise address where the video could be located.

Towhey immediately called the police.

Ford talked to Lisi many times in the period immediately following the release of the Gawker story. According to police accounts, in the period he was talking with the Mayor, he was also phoning and threatening two people to obtain the video--Liban Siyad, a member of the Dixon City Bloods, and Mohamed Siad, the person apparently shopping the video.

Lisi also called Fabio Basso, Ford's friend and resident of the Windsor Road crack house.

During this same period, according to Gawker, two men visited and strong-armed Fabio Basso on several occasions in an attempt to secure the video. On May 21 one of them returned and beat Basso, his girlfriend and mother with a steel pipe, sending him to hospital.

Threats, extortions, beatings. Were Lisi and Basso's assailant acting on Ford's instructions? This is about much more than a crack pipe.

Was Rob Ford being blackmailed?

When Towhey called the police and statements were taken from a number of staffers, all expressed concern about the mayor's erratic behaviour and Lisi's involvement with him. At that point it should have been apparent that the mayor was in trouble, was potentially being blackmailed and that the public service was at risk of becoming enmeshed in criminal activity.

And there was every reason to believe that associates of Mayor Ford presented a grave threat to Mohamed Siad, Basso, Basso's family, and anyone else who might stand between them and the supposedly non-existent video.

Under all the circumstances, this was the moment for a wiretap application to determine what was going on between the mayor and Lisi.

So why no wiretap?

Why did the police wait until October 2, 2013 to seek a search warrant on Sandro Lisi, then misleadingly describe him as a suspect in marijuana trafficking? Why subject Ford and Lisi to an intensive and extremely costly manual monitoring throughout the summer without taking the obvious step of obtaining a wiretap order?

A wiretap order would have furnished direct evidence concerning the true character of the relationship between the mayor, Mr. Lisi, and the events surrounding the crack video. But apparently, the Toronto Police Service never sought one.

The people of Toronto should be asking themselves why that is.

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