TORONTO – A notorious video showing Toronto politician Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine that sparked a storm of controversy and marred the tenure of the former mayor of Canada's largest city, was released Thursday to the public.
A Toronto court lifted a ban on publication of the video, shot in February 2013 and later seized by the police, after an extortion charge was withdrawn Thursday against Sandro Lisi, Ford's friend and former driver. It shows Ford swearing and mumbling while holding what appears to be a crack pipe, which he lights and draws on. WARNING: This video contains strong language
"Mr. Lisi, with this I take it that we have reached the close of a rather tumultuous chapter in the civic life of this city," said Justice Ian MacDonnell, as he closed the case.
The international spotlight fell on Ford in May 2013, when the Toronto Star and the U.S. website Gawker reported the existence of the video, igniting revelations about Ford's drinking and illegal drug problems. At the time, Ford denied the existence of the video, saying he could not comment on a video "that I have never seen or does not exist." He later backtracked when police said they had obtained it.
Although he became the subject of a police investigation, Ford was never charged with a crime, but he eventually admitted to substance abuse and checked into a rehab facility.
After undergoing treatment, he resumed his bid for re-election as mayor. However, in September 2014, he withdrew from the mayoral race, announcing he had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. He died earlier this year at age 46.
The video had been played in court as evidence at the preliminary hearing for Lisi, who was charged with allegedly trying to extort a now convicted gang member to obtain the video, which was a cellphone clip.
Lisi had been scheduled to stand trial on the extortion charge in September. But prosecutor John Patton said a resolution was reached with Lisi's lawyers on the matter in July.
As part of the resolution, Lisi has agreed to abide by certain conditions, which include keeping the peace, maintaining good behavior and to not contact Liban Siyad and Mohamed Siad, whom he had been accused of extorting.
Patton said the charge was being withdrawn due to the "current frailties of the case," including Siyad and Siad's lack of co-operation, and the fact that Ford has since passed away.