A dormant scandal over Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's alleged drug use flared anew Thursday when the city's police chief disclosed that a video purportedly showing Ford smoking crack cocaine had been recovered from a computer seized in a related drug probe.
Canadian media swarmed to Ford's suburban home to confront him over the video, which journalists from the Toronto Star and the U.S. gossip site Gawker had reported viewing in May. The mayor at the time vehemently denied that he used drugs or that the video existed.
Police Chief Bill Blair told the media earlier Thursday that an ongoing drug investigation netted a hard drive from which the video had been erased but was recovered by forensic experts. Gawker said the discovery had renewed a police probe into Ford's alleged drug use.
In its May report, the Star described the mayor as appearing "impaired" in the 90-second video segment, and said he could be heard making homophobic and racial slurs.
“The video files depict images that are consistent with what has previously been reported,” Blair said at a news conference, referring to the Star and Gawker accounts in May. "It’s safe to say the mayor does appear in the video."
The digital video reportedly depicting the mayor smoking something in a glass pipe was recovered by investigators Tuesday from a computer hard drive from which it had been erased earlier, the Canadian news reports said.
The discovery resulted from an investigation last summer of reports of the mayor's alleged drug use and frequent contact with accused drug dealer and friend, Alexander Lisi, according to the Star and other Toronto media.
Dubbed Brazen 2, the investigation involved weeks of clandestine surveillance of the mayor and Lisi. Investigators produced a 480-page "information to obtain" document to gain court approval for search warrants, the Globe and Mail said in its report on the revived scandal.
Blair announced at his news conference that Lisi, arrested earlier this month on narcotics charges, had been taken into custody again Thursday and would be facing an additional charge of extortion.
Reporters descended on the mayor's home after the police chief's revelations, but Ford refused then to discuss the matter, ordering them to "get off my driveway" before taking off in his SUV. Ford later held a news conference where he said he was constrained from commenting on the video by the ongoing investigation of Lisi.
"I wish I could come out and defend myself. Unfortunately I can't because it's before the courts. That’s all I can say," Ford said.
Asked if he planned to heed the calls of other civic leaders that he step down from office, Ford replied that he had "no reason to resign."
Ford had denied he used drugs when the media reports first appeared, and declined to comment on the reported video, insisting it "does not exist," CBC news reported in an anthology of the mayor's responses to past allegations. Ford has repeatedly attributed the scandal to "the Toronto Star going after me."
Blair said the investigation of the mayor was continuing but that authorities lacked grounds at this point to bring charges.