Ford lawyer’s critique of police chief start of ‘concerted attack’: police spokesperson

Bill Blair
City of Toronto police chief Bill Blair speaks to the media in Toronto on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 regarding a recovered video file involving Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s lawyer and brother called out Police Chief Bill Blair on the radio and online Friday, accusing the chief of overstepping his bounds by commenting Thursday on the video of the mayor smoking what appears to be crack cocaine. If anyone should resign, Dennis Morris told the Toronto Sun, it should be Blair himself.

Police spokesman Mark Pugash called the salvo “the start of a concerted attack against the investigators, the investigation and the chief of police.”

The exchange is out of keeping with what used to be a friendly relationship between Ford and the police.

For our ongoing coverage of the controversy surrounding Mayor Rob Ford, click here

But as Doug Ford and lawyer Dennis Morris took to the airwaves Friday to defend the mayor, they both castigated Blair for his comments.

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“He stepped over the line. And he made his personal opinions known to the public,” Doug Ford said in a radio interview. “In my opinion that would prejudice any case…The chief prejudiced the case as far as I’m concerned.”

Blair said Thursday he was “disappointed” at what the investigation uncovered.

READ MORE: Mayor Rob Ford admits to smoking crack cocaine

“Commenting about his disappointment is not part of [Blair’s] job,” Dennis Morris told AM640.

Morris argued Blair didn’t follow his own advice: He said he “really couldn’t comment on the images, however he said the images are consistent with these that had been previously reported in the press.”

Toronto media lawyer Peter Jacobsen, who is representing Global News and other organizations in trying to make this investigation’s court documents public, said Blair didn’t overstep any bounds: The police chief said the images were “consistent with” media reports, but did not go into detail.

“I don’t think the media outlets have said [Ford] was smoking crack cocaine, they said it appeared that he was doing something with a pipe that looks like a crack cocaine pipe,” Jacobsen said.

“But nobody knows what’s in the pipe.”

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Regardless of what is or isn’t in the pipe, Jacobsen noted descriptions of its mere existence in the alleged video is a problem.

“Is that the kind of example we want the mayor to be setting for the youth of Toronto? I think that’s a question that the chief of police is permitted to comment on.”

Morris accused Blair of acting as “judge, jury and executioner” by saying he was “disappointed” after watching the video, and calling the issue “traumatic” for Toronto.

Jacobsen said Blair is entitled to his views on this, and that regardless of what Ford was doing in the video, it shows him “cavorting with individuals who are … of great concern to law enforcement authorities.”

Morris also pushed for police to publish the video: It’s problematic to withhold it leading up to next year’s municipal election, he argued, because it leaves the issue unresolved and he believes media will ask for it and call for the mayor’s resignation.

“And that’s completely unfair,” Morris said. “Everybody should have the right to due process.”

But the mayor hasn’t been charged, Jacobsen noted – so it isn’t clear how the video will be released within the legal framework or what “due process” Morris is referring to.

“Usually evidence of this sort isn’t released until you get to a judicial proceeding, and there is no judicial proceeding in relation to Ford.”

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Jacobsen noted the video could come out in a judicial proceeding against Ford’s friend Alexander “Sandro” Lisi, but that isn’t a given: If he pleads guilty – as one of the suspects charged in Anthony Smith’s death did – evidence in the case may never come to light.

For his part, Pugash said Blair “has more than done his due diligence” in considering his remarks Thursday. And he said police will take on any suggestions they aren’t following the rules.

“We will respond and we will explain that we are following the law, we are adhering to the law and what the law requires. And we will say that as often as is necessary.”

Read more: Mayor Rob Ford, Norm Kelly expected to discuss ‘concerns’ on Saturday