Laugh all you want about the increasing likelihood that the lumpy, goofy mayor of Toronto smoked crack on video and is in the process of covering it up, but The Toronto Star reports in today's paper that Rob Ford told his staff about the video, and told them he knew exactly where it was stashed ... which is alarming considering that exact address may be home to the men who may have killed to get their hands on the tape.
"Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told senior aides not to worry about a video appearing to show him smoking crack cocaine because he knew where it was," the Star's Robert Benzie and Kevin Donovan write. Apparently this occurred on May 17, the day when Gawker and the Star both reported viewing a video in which Ford smokes crack, and the day when Gawker announced it was going to start fundraising $200,000 in order to purchase the video. "Ford then blurted out the address of two 17th-floor units — 1701 and 1703 — at a Dixon Rd. apartment complex ...The mayor cited 'our contacts' as the source of his information," the Star's team adds. As of two weeks ago, it sounds like Ford thought he had control of the story.
About the mayoral staff and addresses, though: On Monday, a similar report surfaced from further down the chain at city hall, with The Globe and Mail reporting that a senior staffer had met with police and told them he or she knew the address — and exact unit number — where the video was being held, and that the "video originally belonged to an individual who may have been killed for its potentially valuable contents." The man who may have been killed for the video is Anthony Smith, a 21-year-old man pictured with Ford in several stories published about the video and someone who appeared to have had some knowledge of the alleged crack-smoking. Smith was shot and killed in March. Ford, as the Globe and Mail reported, said he did not know Smith.
Did Ford have direct contact with "our contacts" at this shady address? Maybe not: His chief of staff and director of logistics were the politicians with answers on the day the story broke. But how Ford came to knew of this address — especially if that turns out to be a murderous locale, in addition to a holding ground for a scandalous videotape — will be key as the truth continues to leak out. The Star's team says they've visited the units in question and that they have "been told by neighbours that numerous young men are seen coming and going there at all hours of the night and day. Nobody said they had seen Ford."
Another way into the story, of course, is the murder of Smith. If you find out who killed Smith, who may be the original owner of the video or had some knowledge of the video, then you could — if Smith was really killed for the video — work your way to the two apartment addresses, and perhaps make the connection to Ford and his office. Police on Thursday announced they had a arrested a second man in connection with Smith's shooting. The man is 23-year-old Hanad Mohamed of Toronto, who now — along with Nisar Hashimi — faces first-degree murder charges. "Sources familiar with the investigation said detectives have obtained search warrants for Mr. Mohamed's cellphone and homes and are looking for at least one other suspect," The Globe and Mail reported on Thursday.
That may be the trail back to the video, but it's also difficult to find out who's trying to sell it at the moment. Gawker has announced that it surpassed its goal of raising $200,000, but before that, Gawker editor John Cook wrote that his contact with the sellers had dropped off. "The last time we established contact with the people who are in possession of the video was this past Sunday, and we have not been able to reach them since," Cook wrote last Thursday. And he reiterated as much on Tuesday, when he announced the fundraising project had mets its goal:
I updated the Indiegogo campaign site yesterday morning to reiterate that there had been no movement on that front, and am repeating it here right now. You won't hear anything more from us about our attempts to get the video for some time. This will be a very delicate transaction. If the people who are in possession of the video are reading this: Please get in touch with our mutual friend, or with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We did what you asked.
If Gawker's sellers are connected to Hashimi and Mohamed and the murder of Smith, the disappearance would make sense, but it also turns a great tabloid story into a grisly black-market tale of corruption, murder, drugs, and greed.
Update, 4:45 p.m. Eastern: In a press conference ostensibly about personnel that have left his staff in the last week, Ford was asked almost entirely about the video and his own future as mayor. "I'm not stepping aside," Ford said repeatedly. "I'm running in the next election," he added, insisting that he "can't wait" to get on the campaign trail. Faced with only more questions about his drug use, he asked a question of his own: "Anything else?" then walked away.