Blackmail, Murder and Mayhem Engulf Toronto's Mayor of Crack

The deadly shooting of a drug gang member is linked to close aides of beleaguered but unbowed Rob Ford. REUTERS/Aaron Harris

The bizarre story of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford took a sinister turn Wednesday, veering from boorish defenses of his smoking crack to blackmail and murder.

In a stunning revelation, Toronto police documents revealed that the connection between the infamous cell phone video of Ford smoking crack and the phone owner's murder came from Ford's two closest aides.

Police have a photograph of Ford, his arm draped around Anthony Smith, who was shot dead outside a Toronto nightclub. Ford is also standing with a second smiling gang member, who survived the March 28 attack.

The nearly 500 pages of documents released by Toronto police, and the fact that Ford's top aides knew the reasons Smith was killed, raise questions about the depth of the mayor's involvement with gangs involved in the drug trade.

The documents reveal Ford's efforts to cover up the story by offering $5,000 and a car for the video. The gangsters wanted more. They offered the video to the Toronto Star and the website Gawker for $150,000.

Smith was murdered two days after the Toronto Star revealed on March 26 that the mayor had been removed from a gala because of intoxication, the first clear public signal about the mayor's now-acknowledged drug use. That story evidently set in motion the purported cover-up attempt by the mayor, the gang efforts to blackmail him, and Smith's murder.

Ford's "logistics director," David Price, and his chief of staff, Mark Towhey, spoke to homicide detectives one day after Gawker and theToronto Star broke the crack video story May 17.

"Price disclosed that the cell phone containing the recording of interest belonged to the deceased [Smith] and that it was the motive for his murder," detectives wrote, adding "Price stated that the male died because of the phone."

The day the story broke Ford's communications director sent a text with the address of the house where the video was taken. Price, Ford's most trusted aide, visited the house early that morning, police documents show.

Police interviewed Price at the suggestion of Towhey, whom the mayor soon fired.

Ford is shown in the video making racist and homophobic remarks. A number of women say Ford groped them and solicited oral sex, which the mayor denied in especially gross remarks during a city council hearing last month.

Ford denied the video existed from May until last month. He also insisted he never smoked crack as captured on the video, which police documents say the mayor was trying to suppress.

After the video became public the mayor claimed his denials were about whether he was currently smoking crack, not past behavior.

The police documents suggest the mayor may also have bought heroin, one of many hints that Towhey's and Price's revelations connecting the video to Smith's murder alerted them to a broader web of criminal activity.

Ford and his brother, the influential city council member Doug Ford, have consistently said the mayor is the subject of baseless attacks by the Star and other news outlets.

Torontonians I interviewed there last month said when the story broke they believed the mayor's denials, not the news reports. Star reporters and other journalists told me the default position of many Torontonians was that Ford had been wronged.

Ford's refusal to resign prompted the city council to withdraw his budget to minimize his powers.

Toronto, the fourth largest city in North America, has no process to remove the mayor unless he begins serving time behind bars.