In a shocking announcement, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has revealed that police are in possession of a video that allegedly shows Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. Blair’s revelations came on the same day that detailed police documents were released. The 480-page documents revealed that Ford was one of the targets of Project Brazen 2, a months-long investigation that resulted in the extortion charge against Alessandro Lisi, a Ford associate and friend.
Blair revealed that the police’s technology department was able to recover a digital video file, which was seized in a raid linked to the Project Traveller investigation. Blair confirmed that the embattled Toronto mayor was in the video and the “video files depict images that are consistent with what has previously been reported.” The latter is seen as a public admission that the video reportedly shows Ford smoking the illegal narcotic at a police-identified crack house.
Project Brazen 2 was launched following reports by The Toronto Star and Gawker that an alleged video of the Toronto mayor smoking crack exists. The police conducted surveillance on Ford and Lisi, and were monitoring them with aerial surveillance, wiretaps and shadowing the mayor in undercover vehicles. The scandal-plagued month could jeopardize Rob Ford’s political career and has some questioning whether the mayor will face criminal charges.
Ford has staunchly denied that such a video exists. Chief Blair’s highly publicized press conference contradicts the mayor’s statements and may mark a very public showdown between two influential officials in Canada’s most populated city.
Edward Prutschi, a legal analyst and criminal lawyer at the boutique law firm of Bytensky Prutschi Shikhman, was counted-on to provide legal insight and clarification into a news piece that made global headlines. Mr. Prutschi was part of a prestigious panel that included former Progressive Conservtive Party of Ontario leader, John Tory, to discuss this case in depth.
Here are some tidbits and some insights that Mr. Prutschi provides in these clips:
Mr. Prutschi mentions that typically, police investigations such as projects are investigations that look into activities of a broader group of individuals, so Mayor Ford is not necessarily the primary concern of police.
Mr. Prutschi discusses how the suspicious activities of Mayor Ford and Lisi may suggest criminal activity but have never been proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. Mr. Prutschi points out that the fact that police and the Crown have yet to file criminal charges against Ford demonstrating that they do not believe they have enough evidence to get a criminal conviction.
Mr. Prutschi discusses that police, in the course of an investigation, do not release all the information to the public. This, Mr. Prutschi points out, may potentially undermine and compromise their investigation. So while they may provide updates to the public, they will not publicize information that will jeopardize their investigation irrespective of the sensationalist value of a story.
Mr. Prutschi, who has practiced as a defense lawyer for many high-profile cases, is asked how would he handle a situation where his high-profile client made public statements, and then had evidence released that contradicted his client’s statements. Mr. Prutschi says that as a criminal defense lawyer, his goal in the court room is to control the message and narrative. This, however, is extremely difficult in the court of public opinion because the message cannot be as easily controlled. Critical to the success of any media management strategy in a criminal case is close cooperation and trust between the client and the lawyer. It is not at all clear whether Mayor Ford is following the likely advice of his lawyer with his repeated unprompted statements.
Mr. Prutschi is then asked what advice he gives his clients who are under heavy public scrutiny. Mr. Prutschi says that he always tries to communicate with his client that his main role as a defense lawyer is to provide sound legal advice. This counsel, he cautions, may conflict and contradict the advice of other members of his team, such as a public relations advisor. It is up to the individual to weigh the legal risks of providing a statement against their desire to provide a public explanation to protect their political or public profile.
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