Sandro Lisi relieved nightmare is over for him and Rob Ford, friends say
Alexander (Sandro) Lisi, joined by lawyer Domenic Basile, arrives at the courthouse at 361 University Ave. on Aug. 11, 2016. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun)
Sandro Lisi is telling friends he’s not only happy for himself his nightmare is over but happy for his old friend Rob Ford’s legacy, too.
“The whole thing was overblown and now everybody will see that,” said a friend close to both Lisi and former mayor Ford. “There was no need to follow them or surveil them because they weren’t really doing anything more than hanging out after work and blowing off steam.”
Still Lisi has been before the courts for more than two years — charged by Toronto Police with extortion over alleged efforts to return the lost cellphone of the mayor.
His nightmare came to an end Thursday morning in a University Ave. courtroom.
“He is relieved but has been through so much,” said a former Ford office staffer. “The way he was portrayed as a bad guy in the media was not only unfair but inaccurate. In fact he was somebody Rob could count on and somebody we could count on.”
Ford told the Toronto Sun that Lisi was “straight as an arrow” and not at all what he was portrayed as. On his sick bed, he said felt bad that Lisi and former staffer David Price were caught in the middle of his personal issues.
Both Lisi and Price attended Ford’s visitation at city hall.
The source close to both said Lisi “drove Rob around” during some of “the mayor’s darkest times” and “never betrayed his confidence.”
But he rejected media reports suggesting he was up to no good.
“He was caught in a difficult situation,” said the friend. “It’s been painful for him.”
He’s hoping, said a source, “to rebuild his life” starting now.
Rob Ford "crack video" timeline
A look at some significant dates in the so called "crack video" scandal involving the late Toronto mayor Rob Ford.
- Oct. 25, 2010: Ford is elected as mayor with just over 47 per cent of the vote, riding a wave of populist support built on his promise to end the "gravy train" and cut government waste.
- May 16, 2013: Reports surface in both the Toronto Star and U.S.-based news site Gawker that Ford was seen on video smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine. The Toronto Star also reports that Ford can be heard using a homophobic slur in reference to then-Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. The video cannot be independently verified. Ford says later that month: "I do not use crack cocaine."
- Oct. 1, 2013: Ford's friend and occasional driver, Alexander Lisi, is arrested and charged with four drug-related offences, including trafficking marijuana. Ford defends Lisi the next day, calling him a friend and a "good guy."
- Oct. 31, 2013: Police Bill Blair announces Toronto police had recovered a copy of a video file that contains images of Ford "consistent with those previously reported in the press." Blair refused to give details but said there was nothing in the video that would support the laying of a criminal charge. He said that as a result of discovering the video, Lisi was facing an additional charge of extortion.
- Nov. 3, 2013: Ford apologizes on his weekly radio show on Newstalk 1010 for making mistakes, including appearing in public while "hammered" and texting while driving. But he tells AM640 the next day: "I'm not an alcoholic, I'm not a drug addict."
- Nov. 5, 2013: Ford admits he smoked crack cocaine about a year earlier while in one of his "drunken stupors." He denies he is an addict. He adds he does not recall there being any video and wasn't lying when he suggested the video didn't exist because reporters had not asked the right question.
- Nov. 7, 2013: A video is posted online by the Toronto Star and Toronto Sun that shows Ford using obscenities and threatening words, including "kill" and "murder." The mayor tells reporters moments after the video is posted that he was "extremely" drunk and is "extremely" embarrassed.
- Nov. 13, 2013: Newly released segments of a court document show former mayoralty staffers told police Ford was intoxicated at work, drank while driving and associated with suspected prostitutes. The release came shortly after city council voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion urging Ford to take a leave of absence and just hours after he admitted buying illegal drugs while in office.
- Nov. 14, 2013: Ford spouts an obscenity on live TV while denying allegations in the court document that he told a female aide he was going to have oral sex with her. He later apologized and said he was getting professional help. City councillors called for him to resign. Ford refused to do so.
- April 30, 2014: Ford's lawyer announces the Toronto mayor will take a leave of absence to seek help for substance abuse at a rehab clinic. The announcement comes just hours after the Globe and Mail reported that a drug dealer had shown two of its reporters a new video of Ford allegedly smoking what a self-professed drug dealer described as crack cocaine.
- June 30, 2014: Ford returns from rehab to resume his limited duties as mayor, saying that seeking treatment for substance abuse was a life-saving decision. He also promises his commitment to "living clean is unwavering."
- Sept. 17, 2014: Dr. Zane Cohen of Mount Sinai Hospital tells a news conference that Ford has been diagnosed with malignant liposarcoma, which arises in soft tissue structures and makes up about one per cent of cancers. He says Ford will undergo two rounds of chemotherapy treatment over the next 40 days.
- Oct. 27, 2014: Ford is elected a city councillor.
- March 24, 2015: A hearing into drug charges against Alexander Lisi begins.
- May 8, 2015: Lisi is found not guilty on drug-related charges. Lisi still faces separate charges of extortion related to trying to retrieve the infamous Ford "crack video."
- March 22, 2016: Ford dies.
- Aug. 11, 2016: The extortion charge against Lisi is dropped and Ford's "crack video" is made public.