How the Rob Ford Crack Tape Scandal Really Began

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Like every great scandal, it started with an irksome early morning phone call right after Easter. That's what set off the Toronto Star's great hunt for the video of mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine, and the investigation into Ford's interesting associates. 

The Toronto Star's Robyn Doolittle was the first reporter to receive a tip about Ford's infamous one time smoking crack cocaine on video. Now, for the first time, she has relayed the details of how the wheels of Ford's biggest scandal were first put into motion. "I have some information I think you’d like to see," the caller teased on the Monday morning after Easter. "I don’t want to talk about it on the phone." The reporter met her mystery caller the next day, first at a Starbucks on Toronto's Queen Street West, before moving to the yard of a nearby school. There, he told her a story that "will sound unbelievable," he said. He told her all about the video -- the video the police now have, the video Gawker and the Star would disclose to the world a few months later -- showing the mayor smoking crack cocaine from a glass pipe. 

But the man who met with Doolittle, who would later become known only as "the broker," couldn't immediately show her the video. He didn't have it. He did have the infamous photo of Ford standing with three alleged gang members, one who had been shot and killed a week before

There was a photo of the mayor, grinning in a dark grey sweatshirt and baggy pants, linked arm in arm with three young men in front of a yellow brick bungalow. One of the guys was giving the camera the finger and holding a beer bottle. Another was flashing a “west-side” gesture. There was snow on the ground and all three men were in coats. Ford was just wearing his sweater.

The mayor takes lots of photos with people, but he’s never in casual clothing. It was clearly taken after work hours at night.

“That one” — he pointed to the hooded man with the beer bottle — “is Anthony Smith. He was killed outside Loki night club last week.”

It was later revealed the tape may have played a part in Smith's death. Doolittle's report today is an expanded version of the same story she gave Poynter on Monday, just hours before the mayor admitted smoking crack cocaine at an impromptu press conference outside his City Hall office. 

What happened between the meeting at a Starbucks is well-documented at this points. Months of denials, police raids, police wire taps, police spy planes -- the works. All building to yesterday's boiling point, and the burning question on Toronto's mind -- what's next? 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.