Wednesday April 16, 2014

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Guilty plea in killing of man who appeared in photo with Mayor Rob Ford

TORONTO - A man admitted in court Thursday to shooting and killing Anthony Smith, who gained notoriety in death after a photo emerged that appeared to show him with Toronto's mayor, but his lawyer suggested there may be "further developments."

Nisar Hashimi, 23, entered an early guilty plea to manslaughter and aggravated assault just three months after Smith, 21, was shot dead outside a downtown Toronto nightclub and Muhammad Khattak, 19, was wounded.

Hashimi had been charged with first-degree murder. Smith's sister and mother said outside court that though the plea to lesser charges wasn't the outcome they had expected, they can now move on.

Smith's sister, Kamelia Taylor, lashed out at a throng of reporters, saying it was "disgusting" that no one cared about her brother's death until a picture emerged appearing to show him with the mayor.

"If it wasn't for the picture that had surfaced no one of you guys would have known who Anthony Smith was," she said. "You guys just cared about the Rob Ford story — the allegations, the accusations — without knowing what was what...You guys dragged the dead through the gutter."

The Toronto Star has reported that the same person who showed its reporters an alleged video of the mayor smoking what appears to be crack cocaine provided them with the picture.

That newspaper, as well as the Globe and Mail, reported that Khattak is one of the other men in the photo. Khattak was arrested earlier this month in a series of raids targeting suspected drug and gun traffickers.

Ford has denied the picture indicates he has ties to drug dealers, saying he takes pictures with a lot of people.

He has also said that he does not use crack cocaine and the alleged video does not exist.

Hashimi's plea means there will be no preliminary inquiry or trial at which evidence would be tendered. Hashimi's lawyer, John Struthers, said his client's decision to plead guilty so early was because he wanted to demonstrate his remorse, not because of the "huge distractions" to do with this case.

"He turned himself in immediately," Struthers said outside court. "He has pleaded guilty immediately and there may be further developments."

Struthers was asked by reporters if he thinks those developments will involve Ford and drugs.

"I suspect there's going to be more to this story out of the Traveller project," he said, referring to the raids that netted dozens of arrests and more than 200 charges.

"I expect that there will probably be a lot more information coming out in other cases. This particular case, of course, was a sidelight to that entire issue, frankly."

As part of the joint agreement between Hashimi and the Crown, he was sentenced to nine years.

There was "ongoing animosity" between Hashimi and his associates and Smith and Khattak — alleged members of the Dixon City Bloods gang, according to an agreed statement of facts entered in court.

Both groups were in the nightclub that night and Smith received a text message from an associate who wasn't there instructing him to attack a member of Hashimi's group. Once patrons of the bar spilled into the street at 2:40 a.m., Smith and Khattak did as instructed and the attack spurred a confrontation between both groups, the agreed statement said.

Hashimi pulled out a handgun and fired several shots, fatally hitting Smith in the head and thigh and wounding Khattak's shoulder.

"He acted instinctively, in the sudden excitement of the moment, and while his capacity was diminished by alcohol and drugs," according to the statement. "He did not intend to kill or to cause grievous bodily harm either to Mr. Smith or to Mr. Khattak."

Hashimi stared downward as a Crown attorney read victim impact statements prepared by Smith's mother and sister.

"He was such a happy young man, ready to take on the world," his sister wrote. "He was happy, spirited and loved by everyone he met."

Hanad Mohamed, 23, is also facing a first-degree murder charge in Smith's death and is set to appear in court July 26 via video link.


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