Outspoken Toronto councillor charged with assault


From Thursday's Globe and Mail

March 26, 2008 at 8:51 PM EDT

In a move that dispatched shock waves through City Hall, outspoken Toronto councillor Rob Ford was arrested yesterday morning and charged with assault and uttering a death threat.

In line with police procedure in criminal charges involving domestic assault, neither the name of his alleged victim nor the place where he was arrested were released.

Police sources and his lawyer, however, confirmed that the charges involve Mr. Ford's wife, Renata, mother of the couple's two small children, and that the alleged incident took place at the couple's home.

Mr. Ford, 38, declined comment, but his lawyer, Dennis Morris, called the charges unfounded and said his client would fight them.

An often vocal conservative who represents Ward 2, Etobicoke North, Mr. Ford was arrested at 9:30 a.m., handcuffed and taken to the 22 Division police station near his Etobicoke home, where he was fingerprinted and released on an undertaking at around noon.

He is to appear in court on Finch Avenue on April 28, at 2 p.m.

Mr. Morris said his client would fight the charges, which he called “spurious, unfounded allegations,” adding that Mr. Ford has no plans to step aside from his job at City Hall.

“I don't really think this has anything to do with his duties as a councillor.”

Mr. Morris also noted that under the conditions of Mr. Ford's release, he, rather than his wife, will have custody of the couple's children, a situation he described as unusual when a father is accused of spousal assault.

“That's very important, reading between the lines, because if a person is allegedly violent or threatening, usually Children's Aid and the police wouldn't want a person near the children without court order,” Mr. Morris said.

“But in their wisdom they've decided that he's the spouse to have the children in his custody.”

Mr. Ford's arrest marks the first time a councillor has faced criminal charges since the city amalgamated 10 years ago. Only if Mr. Ford were convicted and imprisoned would he be compelled to resign.

And while municipal election act rules can unseat local politicians convicted of corruption, a councillor convicted of other criminal charges would not necessarily be barred from seeking re-election.

A spokesman for Mayor David Miller termed the issue a “police matter.”

Frugal with his office expenses and a critic of city grants to arts and community groups, Mr. Ford has earned a reputation as a penny-pincher, and has been a regular guest on talk radio shows since his election to council in 2000.

Nor is he a stranger to controversy.

In a council debate earlier this month, he mused that “Orientals” are “taking over” because of their work ethic.

And in 2006 he apologized for lying to reporters about his role in a drunken, profanity-laced incident in which he was ejected from a Maple Leafs hockey game.

After two fans complained, Mr. Ford initially denied but then later admitted he had attended the game at the Air Canada Centre.

“I had one too many beers and I sincerely apologize,” he said at the time. “I'm only human, and I made a mistake.”

He was also in the headlines in 2005, when two assailants shot his sister in the face at her Etobicoke home and fled the neighbourhood in a stolen Jaguar.