TORONTO – A friend of Rob Ford was acquitted Friday of drug-related charges after a judge admonished the Crown for lack of evidence, suggesting the former Toronto mayor was the real target of the police investigation.
Justice Ramez Khawly dismissed all charges against Ford’s friend and former driver Alexander (Sandro) Lisi and his co-accused, Jamshid (Jay) Bahrami.
“It would be naive to suggest Lisi was investigated in a vacuum. The connection to the mayor of Toronto loomed large,” Khawly said in his two-hour-long decision.
Police would not put the resources after “such small fry” the judge said. They were after “big game.”
Khawly said the case really fell apart because he found the key witness — an undercover Toronto police officer — to be unreliable and not credible. He said the officer was under intense pressure from top police brass to build a strong case against “the big enchilada” — Ford — and his friend Lisi.
Lisi was all smiles after the decision. He said little after court, thanking the judge and his lawyers and saying he was “relieved.”
“A lot of resources and police money and taxpayers’ money went into this investigation and you heard the judge say there was an absence of evidence in certain areas,” said Lisi’s lawyer, Domenic Basile.
Bahrami, a dry cleaner in northwest Toronto, was also smiling after the decision came down.
“I worked hard on that business for 14 years and lost a lot of clients so after this I hope everybody will realize this and, hopefully, come back,” he said outside the courthouse.
Both men had been charged with trafficking cannabis.
Lisi, 36, was also charged with possession of a small quantity of marijuana and possession of the proceeds of crime, while Bahrami was charged with cocaine possession.
Lisi had $900 in marked police money when he was arrested — allegedly from an undercover officer’s purchase of 220 grams of pot in Bahrami’s dry cleaning store.
Justice Khawly said the Crown had been unable to prove the entire case beyond a reasonable doubt and emphasized his issues with the undercover officer’s testimony.
“I kept looking for areas where, eventually, the undercover officer would shore up his credibility. It proved to be a fruitless exercise,” said Khawly. “The long and short of it is that on all material points, I simply cannot rely on his evidence.”
Lisi and Bahrami were arrested after a months-long police investigation that involved surveillance by officers, electronic tracking, aerial spotting and a camera mounted on a street pole.
Court heard that police began watching Lisi in June 2013 because they believed he had swapped drugs for the return of Ford’s cellphone earlier that year.
Lisi also faces separate charges of extortion related to trying to retrieve the infamous Ford “crack video.”
He has yet to stand trial in that case.