TORONTO – An unusually lengthy police document in the drug-related arrest of a friend of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is expected to be publicly released Thursday and could shed light on the relationship between the two.
Alexander Lisi — who Ford has described as a friend and a “good guy” — was arrested earlier this month and charged with four drug offences, including trafficking marijuana.
A document in which police detail evidence they have collected in an investigation in order to get a search warrant normally becomes a public document once the warrant is executed.
But the information in Lisi’s case was sealed so lawyers for several media outlets went to court to argue it should be released. The media lawyers said in court Wednesday that the document is in the public interest.
Lawyer Peter Jacobsen acknowledged outside court that there is a difference between the public interest and what the public is interested in, but in this case “there is a much larger agenda at play.”
“The Lisi investigation does involve the mayor, we all know that,” Jacobsen said. “We know that he is a friend of the mayor’s so the whole issue I say is in the public interest.”
The Crown went through the nearly 500-page document and parsed out information it consented to being made public.
Ontario Superior Court Judge Ian Nordheimer agreed that it should be released. The Crown said it expected the document could be released Thursday morning, once all the sections that remain under a sealing order are redacted.
The rest, the Crown is arguing, refers to innocent third parties not related to the essential narrative of the Lisi investigation and should not be made public.
Media lawyers will be making further arguments in November about making that information public.
There should not be a distinction between what is essential and what isn’t, since it is all read by the judge in determining whether to issue a search warrant, media lawyer Peter Jacobsen said.
“It also raises the issue about why would all of this so-called extraneous material be put into an ITO if it’s not necessary?” he said outside court.
The document is a very large one for a fairly small-time drug case and Jacobsen said the public has a right to know why.
“Was it just inadvertence?” he said outside court. “Was it an attempt by the Crown to ensure that it was being incredibly thorough? Or is there another agenda at play?”
Lawyers also discussed in court Wednesday whether the people named in the information about to be released should be notified and given a chance to argue against it.
Nordheimer ultimately decided there was no “principled basis” for it, saying to do so would open a “Pandora’s box.”
Court heard there are about 70 people named in the information expected to be made public, including one person who is named in both the “essential” and “non-essential” information.
Ford would not comment on the impending release of information when asked by reporters at city hall Wednesday.
He has previously vouched for Lisi in a separate criminal case, praising his “exceptional leadership skills” and hard work in a letter filed with the court.
The letter, dated June 4, was part of a report prepared by a probation officer after Lisi was convicted of threatening to kill a woman.
The Toronto Star reported earlier this year that Lisi was looking for an alleged video that appears to showed Ford using crack cocaine.
Ford has said he does not use crack cocaine and that the alleged video does not exist.
The allegation surfaced in May when reporters from the Star and the U.S. website Gawker reported they were shown the video.