Sandro Lisi Extortion Trial: A Primer
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Sandro Lisi Extortion Trial: A Primer

We answer some frequently asked questions about the ongoing Sandro Lisi trial, now in the preliminary court stage.

This week, the preliminary court proceedings for extortion allegations against Sandro Lisi continues at Old City Hall. To better understand what’s going on in the trial, and why so few details are reported in the media, Torontoist put together a handy list to answer your questions.

What’s the charge?

Alexander “Sandro” Lisi, Rob Ford’s friend, driver, and alleged dealer, stands accused of extortion for purported attempts to retrieve a digital recording from a man named Liban Siyad.

The charges have not been proven in court.

The sworn police charges read:

[Alexander Lisi on or about the 16th day of May and] ending on or about the 18th day of May, 2013, both dates inclusive, did, without reasonable justification or excuse and with intent to obtain a digital video recording or recordings or a cellular telephone or telephones, induce or attempt to induce Liban Siyad by threats, accusations, menaces or violence, to produce or deliver, or cause to have produced or deliveried [sic], the said digital video recording or recordings, or cellular telephone or telephones.

In February, police removed Mohamed Siad from these charges as one of the subjects of the alleged extortion, leaving only Siyad. Siad is reportedly the videographer of the crack tape, first reported by Gawker and the Toronto Star on May 16, 2013—the same day police specify in the extortion charges.

The Criminal Code specifies that extortion includes “threats, accusations, menaces or violence” made towards someone “without reasonable justification or excuse” in an attempt to make them “do anything or cause anything to be done.” The indictable offence carries a penalty of up to life in prison.

Who is Lisi charged with extorting?

Liban Siyad is the alleged victim in this case, though he has a criminal past of his own. Swept up in the June 2013 Project Traveller raids that occurred at the height of the Rob Ford crack scandal, Siyad later pleaded guilty to participation in the Dixon City Bloods in relation to cocaine and gun charges and, in December 2014, was sentenced to two years and nine months plus time served.

What else can you tell us about this case?

Almost nothing, unfortunately. Ontario Court Justice Mara Greene, who is presiding over the proceedings, has imposed an s. 539 publication ban, which prohibits transmission, broadcast or publication of all evidence introduced during preliminary hearings. A preliminary hearing is held to determine whether the Crown prosecution’s case has enough merit to advance to a trial.

The ban means we can’t tell you what’s said in Court Room #123 at Old City Hall (though any member of the public is free to walk in and listen for themselves, although they too are subject to the publication ban), and we can’t publish the names the individuals testifying at this stage.

When will you be able to say more?

Once all is said and done with Lisi’s extortion case, we can tell you about any testimony, evidence, and legal arguments that were on display in court in March and April.

If, for some reason, Lisi’s charges are dropped or the case does not proceed to the anticipated judge-and-jury trial, then we will immediately report the information we learned, because at that point the publication ban will be lifted.

How does this relate to the other Lisi trial I’ve been hearing about?

The ongoing drug trial in which Lisi is jointly accused with a second party, Jamshid Bahrami, is only tangentially connected to the higher-profile extortion case. In court last week, the undercover officer who arrested Lisi and Bahrami claimed he was unaware of the broader context of Project Brazen 2 at the time.