Chapter 2: Clowns
Thunder Bay
Chapter 2: Clowns
A dark, grainy, cellphone video leads to criminal charges against the mayor, his wife, the chief of police, and a multimillionaire lawyer turned convicted sex offender, whose wife disappeared years ago.
October 26, 2018

A dark, grainy, cellphone video leads to criminal charges against the mayor, his wife, the chief of police, and a multimillionaire lawyer turned convicted sex offender, whose wife disappeared years ago.

Chapter 2 – Clowns.mp3 | Convert audio-to-text with Sonix

Download the “Chapter 2 – Clowns.mp3 audio file directly. This mp3 was automatically transcribed by Sonix (https://sonix.ai).

RYAN:
This podcast is funded entirely through support from listeners like you. To continue this work, we need your help. Visit patreon.com/CANADALAND, and keep independent journalism alive for as little as a dollar per month.

ZAITZEFF:
So, here is how we start. Watch the video.

RYAN:
The cell phone video that started it all is grainy and blurry and dimly lit.

ZAITZEFF:
Watch the show.

RYAN:
The first thing you see is an older man, round and balding with white hair.

ZAITZEFF:
I am… I am… Sandy. <sniffs> <laughs>

GERALD:
The Z!

ZAITZEFF:
Shut up, Gerald! Alexander Zaitzeff.

RYAN:
He’s standing in a basement next to a tall woman and a dog.

ZAITZEFF:
<indistinct speech> This is my wife.

RYAN:
He seems pretty drunk.

ZAITZEFF:
I have P-T-fucking-S-D. Why? Because my son died. That’s a big fucking event in anybody’s fucking life!

RYAN:
Sandy Zaitzeff is one of the richest people in Thunder Bay. At the time this video was shot, in October of 2016. he was 67 years old and still had a license to practice law.

ZAITZEFF:
Now watch what somebody did to me. Watch the bruises on me. Watch.

RYAN:
He takes off his t-shirt to reveal his protruding belly and raises his arms in the air, twirling around like he’s showing off a new suit.

ZAITZEFF:
That’s only half my fucking body!

GERALD:
That’s proof. That’s proof.

ZAITZEFF:
(overlaps) That’s half my body.

RYAN:
He tugs his pants down to show more of the bruising, revealing the top of his ass crack. Zaitzeff keeps addressing someone behind the camera named Marisa.

ZAITZEFF:
Marisa? Marisa, watch. Take a lap take a fucking look. They took me down. I’m not going to say who. I’m not going to press charges. I don’t want that. I just want the world to fucking know they took me down. They kicked me around and now I have absolute fucking proof that they tried to fraud me.

RYAN:
He never says who “they” are.

ZAITZEFF:
They have a forged fucking will, where, where, where they claim, they allege, I left my fortune of 50 million dollars to them. Okay, now I’m going to put my shirt on. By the way, these are… You need to know these are my clowns.

RYAN:
On the bookcase behind him, sitting in rows, are about two dozen clown figurines.

ZAITZEFF:
Look here, every one of these is at least a million dollar case. At least.

RYAN:
Each clown Zaitzeff says, represents a case in his career worth at least a million dollars, and they only cover half of his career.

ZAITZEFF:
Only half! Marisa, please turn around, look at those big clowns over there.

RYAN:
The camera quickly pans across the room to reveal three figures huddled around a bar. Two are together, and one sitting at the end of the bar is Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs.

ZAITZEFF:
Show the mayor. I want to see the mayor. The mayor’s in there.

GERALD:
No… No, it’s showing me. <laughs>

ZAITZEFF:
No, you need to be in this!

ZAITZEFF:
(overlaps) You’re talking about a big clown.

MARISA:
<laughing>

RYAN:
He’s a beefy middle-aged guy with a bald head and a goatee. He looks like a TV cop, and in fact he was a cop in Thunder Bay for 34 years before he became mayor.

RYAN:
“Thanks for showing me,” he says in a joking tone.

ZAITZEFF:
Is the mayor in this? ‘Cause this is going to HBO. Put the mayor in. Marisa, come out here.

MARISA:
(overlaps) I’m just thinking…

ZAITZEFF:
I want Marisa in this, too.

RYAN:
Marisa Hobbs, the mayor’s wife. She’s a striking woman. If you Google her picture you’ll find her in a fur coat and a big Russian fur hat. She has jet-black hair and bangs.

ZAITZEFF:
Hug the mayor. No, give him a big kiss.

MARISA:
Okay. <chuckles>

ZAITZEFF:
Give the mayor a big kiss.

MARISA:
Hi.

RYAN:
It seems pretty important to Zaitzeff to get both the mayor and his wife in the video. And then, things get weird.

ZAITZEFF:
Now let me put my clothes on. Now we make a proposal. Helicopter.

RYAN:
“Helicopter” is Zaitzeff’s pet name for Heli Kijanen, his tall, blonde, on-again, off-again girlfriend. She was also his client. Heli he used to be a Mountie. She was the initial plaintiff in a massive class-action lawsuit he brought against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for rampant sexual harassment and abuse of female officers. At the time this video was shot, their case against the Mounties had just been settled for a 100 million dollars. Nobody in Thunder Bay was quite sure how much of that was going to Zaitzeff.

RYAN:
With some help from Heli, Sandy Zaitzeff gets down on his knees.

HELI:
I only waited six years but, you know…

ZAITZEFF:
Yeah, and how many times did you leave me? Tell me the truth.

HELI:
Thirteen times!

ZAITZEFF:
She left me 13 times.

ZAITZEFF:
Baby… Sisu, come here. Sisu!

RYAN:
The dog, Sisu, joins Zaitzeff as he proposes.

ZAITZEFF:
Okay, baby, will you marry me? Do you promise to marry me? Promise me you’ll marry me.

HELI:
Baby?

ZAITZEFF:
Yes?

HELI:
I love you. I have always loved you, and I promise you I will marry you.

RYAN:
“I’ve always loved you, and I promise you I will marry you,” says Heli. Haley leans down for a kiss, but Sisu jumps into their embrace.

ZAITZEFF:
That’s my Sisu!

RYAN:
Zaitzeff turns his attention to the dog, hugging and kissing Sisu, while his new fiancée watches on.

ZAITZEFF:
(overlaps) <laughs> That’s my Sisu-boy! No, I know I did. I want my Sisu-boy right here, right now.

HELI:
(overlaps) <laughs>

RYAN:
It ends.

RYAN:
I can’t pretend to understand everything that’s happening in that video. What I can tell you is that it played a role in a series of events that would lead to the arrest of Sandy Zaitzeff, the mayor, his wife, their alleged accomplice, and the local chief of police. This is “Thunder Bay.”

FEMALE NEWSCASTER:
A shocking announcement in Thunder Bay late this afternoon.

FEMALE NEWSCASTER:
Developing story out of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

MALE NEWSCASTER:
It’s a story making headlines one across the pond.

FEMALE NEWSCASTER:
Accused Thunder Bay lawyer Sandy Zaitzeff…

FEMALE NEWSCASTER:
Disgraced Thunder Bay lawyer Sandy Zaitzeff…

FEMALE NEWSCASTER:
Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs is taking issue with a YouTube video that’s been making the rounds on social media.

MALE NEWSCASTER:
Well, the OPP confirms this is part of the same investigation that saw City Police Chief J.P. Levesque slapped with criminal charges in May.

WILLOW:
You know, I don’t know. The only way I can really describe it is just… I mean these last two years have been such a clusterfuck.

RYAN:
That’s Willow Fiddler, a Thunder Bay reporter for APTN, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

WILLOW:
And it’s been mind boggling. People don’t get it. I’ve had calls from, like, all across the country from people. Emails and phone calls asking me what the hell is going on in Thunder Bay. And I wish I could tell them.

RYAN:
Willow’s been covering various parts of the scandal and I have a lot of questions for her. For starters, what were the mayor and his wife doing in Sandy Zaitzeff’s basement? After all, at the time the video was shot, Zaitzeff was suing the city of Thunder Bay for 800 million dollars on behalf of homeowners who had raw sewage back up into their homes due to alleged negligence on the part of Hobbs’s government. The mayor shouldn’t have been anywhere near the guy.

RYAN:
Also, why did Zaitzeff want to make that video? Who roughed him up? Who uploaded the video itself to YouTube? Was that marriage proposal for real? And, finally… what’s with the clowns?

WILLOW:
I think there’s definitely people who know what happened. Uh, I’m not sure why they’re not talking. Um, you know, I think… And I’m talking about certain leadership in this city.

RYAN:
Willow is generously willing to help any way she can, but she can’t really answer my questions. In some cases she doesn’t know the answers, and in others she does know, or has a pretty good idea, but can’t say. Not on the record.

RYAN:
There are court ordered publication bans prohibiting what any media outlet can reveal. In many instances, these bans are in place for good reason: To protect the identities of sexual assault victims. So, this is a tricky story, potentially, and a legal story to tell. But here’s the thing. Much of it is right out in the open, on the public record already: A slew of accusations and counter-accusations from the interested parties, comments that Mayor Hobbs let slip in interviews, and more. Then, there’s plenty of stuff that we found that media can publish, but… nobody has.

RYAN:
Finally, we were able to speak with people involved with this. Nobody was willing to let us use their names, but they spoke with us. They helped us fill in the blanks. Today we’re gonna put it all together and tell you as much of the story as we can. When you hear someone’s voice, other than mine, it’ll be an actor reading from court transcripts or other verified documents. Let’s start at the beginning.

RYAN:
Before this all went down, Alexander “Sandy” Zaitzeff was a prominent member of the Thunder Bay legal community.

HUTCHISON:
He enjoyed a successful career as a civil litigator, Your Honour. He built a practice in this community and elsewhere and achieved significant professional success through hard work and ability.

RYAN:
That’s how his lawyer, Scott Hutchison, describes Zaitzeff in court when he was making a case for a light sentence. That’s not Scott Hutchison’s voice. There’s no filming or recording allowed in Ontario courts. But we have a transcript, so you’ll hear an actor. Whenever you hear this voice, that’s what Sandy Zaitzeff’s lawyer told the judge.

HUTCHISON:
Mr Zaitzeff had no criminal record and, indeed, no, no suggestion of any kind of anti-social behaviour in his background.

RYAN:
Sandy Zaitzeff wasn’t just a respected lawyer with a clean record. He also was a defender of vulnerable people, of abused foster children, survivors and victims of an air crash, of sexually harassed police women.

HUTCHISON:
Female RCMP officers who had suffered discrimination, abuse, and harassment in the course of their professional lives. That was a class action, Your Honour, that, at the time it was initiated by Mr Zaitzeff, was innovative and, it’s fair to say, ahead of its time.

RYAN:
That’s what Sandy Zaitzeff says about himself, via his attorney, that he was an individual without blemish. His former law partner Chris Watkins told a different tale. Watkins said that, in 2011, Zaitzeff was a washed-up, retired old lawyer, but he partnered up with him anyhow to take on class-action lawsuits. Watkins claimed that Zaitzeff then cheated him, pushing him out of big cases, including the RCMP class action, leaving him his firm and his family abused, broke, and bereft. Watkins also said that Zaitzeff threatened to kill him, telling people he would “take Watkins out.”

RYAN:
All of that was in a 28 million dollar lawsuit that Watkins filed against Zaitzeff. Zaitzeff denies it all, except for one part. Sandy Zaitzeff does not contest that while he was working with Watkins, he was a raging alcoholic.

HUTCHISON:
There were periods when he was drinking as much as 40 ounces of liquor a day. Significantly, Your Honour, the literature also suggests that Lorazepam and alcohol in combination can be particularly dangerous.

RYAN:
Lorazepam was a medication Zaitzeff was taking for medically diagnosed traumatic grief. His son Sandy Junior died in 2014. His obituary said he fractured his ankle earlier and was on crutches, trying to get himself a snack from the fridge, when he slipped, fell, and died immediately from a severe head injury years. Before that, Sandy Zaitzeff’s wife mysteriously disappeared on a Sea-Doo.

RYAN:
Eighteen years ago, Sandy Zaitzeff’s wife Marilyn vanished. It was October and they were at their cottage. She was seen at 9 p.m. getting on her Sea-Doo and heading out on the lake. She never came back. Zaitzeff called 9-1-1 at 11 p.m. The Sea-Doo was found the next day in the water, a kilometre away, in working order and with gas in the tank. Marilyn’s body was never found. The police remember the case to this day. Asked about it, they say that the circumstances of her death were deemed suspicious, and her case remains an open missing-person investigation. They also note that there was no evidence of foul play. Marilyn Zaitzeff was presumed drowned.

HUTCHISON:
His wife died in a boating accident in 2000. His son, Sandy Jr., died in June of 2014. He had been living with Mr. Zaitzeff at the time. It’s the sort of loss that few of us can imagine, Your Honour.

RYAN:
At the height of his grief, and at the height of his drinking, Sandy Zaitzeff got rich… or at least he got much richer than he had been. And everyone knew it. Nobody was sure how much of the 100 million dollar settlement went to Zaitzeff. But word of the windfall was enough to attract a lot of attention.

HUTCHISON:
Various individuals inserted themselves into Mr. Zaitzeff’s life, or their approach to him changed, because suddenly Mr. Zaitzeff went from being the damaged hard-drinking lawyer to the “rich” lawyer.

RYAN:
Zaitzeff’s attorney then names some of these individuals: Mary Voss, Mr. Hobbs and Miss Hobbs. Mary Voss a woman of color was one of the women Sandy Zaitzeff was involved with during his downward spiral. as an interracial couple in Thunder Bay with the pretty big age gap between them. They got noticed. Sandy Zaitzeff says that Mayor Keith Hobbs used to be his friend. An associate of Zaitzeff testified that the mayor and his wife were frequent guests of Zaitzeff. In the months leading up to that video. Zaitzeff says that he once asked the mayor for advice after buying a big new home on Farrand Street, he discovered a bunch of guns hidden away in an obscure corner of the house that belonged to the previous owner: An antique shotgun, another shotgun, and a semiautomatic rifle.

RYAN:
He says he asked the mayor how he could surrender them to the police, but before he got around to it, things soured between Zaitzeff and Hobbs. What made the mayor and his wife turn against their friend Sandy Zaitzeff? It was Zaitzeff’s abuse of women. Hobbs found out about it. Mary Voss is not just Zaitzeff’s ex-girlfriend, she was also a friend of the mayor’s wife. We obtained audio of Sandy Zaitzeff providing a bit more detail about the alleged extortion attempt. This is Sandy Zaitzeff voice, not an actor’s.

ZAITZEFF:
She’s trying to put me in jail. That’s what they’re trying to do. They want… The black woman wants me to die first, okay? Because she’s got a, a forgery will. Forgery! <clears throat> Somebody forged a will that said I gave my fifteen million… Fifty… to them. I did not. It’s not my signature. It’s a forgery.

RYAN:
I’ll note again here that Mary Voss has pled not guilty to charges of extortion. Two people involved with these events tell us that Zaitzeff directly blamed Voss for the bruises on his body. Mary Voss has never been charged with assault against him. Then there are videos. Different videos than the one we played you at the start. They’ve never been released. We’ve never seen them, but we know what they show Sandy Zaitzeff doing, because he admitted to it. In a moment, you’ll hear the words of Scott Hutcheson, Sandy Zaitzeff’s defence attorney, speaking before a judge who is about to sentence Sandy Zaitzeff. The video he describes had been entered into evidence by the prosecution. We’ve changed the names of Zaitzeff’s victims. A warning to listeners that this next part involves the sexual abuse of a minor.

COURT NARRATOR:
On the evening of October 19th, 2016, Sarah Miller reports that the accused, Mr. Zaitzeff, was highly intoxicated. Sarah’s teenage daughter, Amy, was in her basement bedroom. It was a weekday and she had school the next morning. Amy awoke to Mr. Zaitzeff standing over her. Mr. Zaitzeff pulled on her bed covers. Amy asked Mr. Zaitzeff to leave. He then called Amy a cunt. He grabbed at her covers and proceeded to physically assault Amy through a swatting motion. At least one slap landed on her face. Sarah went downstairs, where she saw Mr. Zaitzeff assaulting her daughter. She pulled Mr. Zaitzeff away. Amy captured part of the event on her cell phone. At approximately two o’clock on the morning of October 20th, 2016, the accused Mr. Zaitzeff went down to the doorway of Amy’s bedroom. He was extremely intoxicated. The door was locked, and a chair placed in front to prevent it from opening. Mr. Zaitzeff began yelling at Amy and tried to enter the bedroom. The door is captured in the video and is damaged and partially detached from its hinges. He was not successful in entering the room. The accused is heard to yell “Open the fucking door. Fuck, you’re dumb. Why are you such a dumb fucking cunt?” Mr. Zaitzeff went quiet. About four hours later, a loud smash is heard, consistent with the bedroom door being struck. Mr. Zaitzeff is then heard saying, “Amy, will you suck my cock now? This is who I am. Come here now. You will suck my cock.” The door is then kicked. He then begins yelling for her mother. “Sarah will suck my cock right in front of you, you understand? I’m going upstairs till your mom gets home, but you will suck my cock, understand? You know why? Because I’m a good man. You’re a little girl. I have to think about that. It’s probably not right.”

RYAN:
I know that went on a long time, but there is much, much more of it in the court transcript. The abuse itself lasted hours. The whole episode came a few days after an earlier incident when Sandy Zaitzeff assaulted Amy’s mom. Zaitzeff’s lawyer told the judge that the Sandy Zaitzeff who did these things was not the same Sandy Zaitzeff who sat before the law in court.

HUTCHISON:
Your Honour, it’s fair to say he became a different person when he drank.

RYAN:
That argument was never challenged. Which raises the question… Which Sandy Zaitzeff is this on a recording we obtained talking about a teenage girl’s underwear?

ZAITZEFF:
Now, listen to me carefully. I have the panties, the girl’s panties, in the drawers in my room. You don’t understand this, okay? Because you’re a woman. Men… Men love dirty panties. And I do love panties. I admit that, okay? I love women, I admit.

RYAN:
Keith Hobbs knew about Sandy Zaitzeff’s abuse of women. Allegedly, he even had video evidence of it, but he didn’t go to the police. Not right away. First, he went to Sandy Zaitzeff. Here’s how he, himself, put it in his defamation claim against Zaitzeff.

HOBB’S LAWYER:
My client, Mayor Keith Hobbs, indicated to Sandy Zaitzeff that he would be contacting the police with information containing serious allegations of sexual impropriety engaged in by Alexander Sandy Zaitzeff.

RYAN:
Hobbs says he indicated that he would take the info to the cops. What he’s been charged with is threatening to do so unless Sandy Zaitzeff paid off Mary Voss, who was allegedly in on the plot with the mayor and his wife. The criminal code calls this “extortion.” You could also call it “blackmail.” Here’s how it played out.

RYAN:
Craig Loverin was a friend of Zaitzeff’s late son Sandy Junior, and remained friendly with Zaitzeff after Sandy Junior’s death. He’s a 36-year-old war veteran who served in Afghanistan.

RYAN:
At the time, in 2016, he was a manager at a car wash. He took the witness stand in a related trial that we haven’t even gotten to yet. For now, let’s focus on his testimony. Loverin said that, late at night on November 17th, 2016, Keith Hobbs asked him to meet up in the parking lot of a supermarket. The mayor got into Loverin’s car and gave him a USB stick. He said it contained videos that he should play for Sandy Zaitzeff. He said Zaitzeff should see them so he would, quote, “know how much trouble he is in.” Loverin also said that, sitting in his car, Hobbs gave him a strong reason not to go to the local cops. He claims Hobbs warned him that two Thunder Bay detectives owed him because, back when he was still on the force, he destroyed evidence to help them. Two inmates had thrown bodily fluids on the detectives. Whatever happened next was captured on cell block video. Hobbs destroyed that video and his buddies on the force remain grateful.

RYAN:
Hobbs also allegedly threatened Loverin that, if he wanted to, he could have him charged with obstruction of justice. Loverin says the warnings worked. He was afraid of the mayor, afraid to go to the Thunder Bay police and point a finger at their former colleague. Loverin:

LOVERIN:
I was concerned. Concerned about what I was getting myself into. They knew I was very close to him and wanted me to talk to him and persuade him.

RYAN:
Allegedly, the shakedown went like this: Hobbs and his wife allegedly demanded that Zaitzeff pay Voss off to, quote, “make things go away or else they’d hand the incriminating videos over to the cops.” The official charge is that Keith Hobbs, Marissa Hobbs, and Mary Voss made threats, accusations or menace of disclosing criminal allegations to the police, unless Zaitzeff paid up. It’s alleged that the payment would be in the form of a home purchase for Voss. Zaitzeff may have been willing to do this, but the negotiations reportedly broke down over the sticker price. Zaitzeff would go up to $250,000 for a property, but Hobbs allegedly demanded $420,000.

RYAN:
Now, most of this comes from Craig Loverin’s testimony, but Hobbs himself made statements that were arguably consistent with it. Keeping in mind that Keith Hobbs has pled not guilty to extortion, listen to this. This is Mayor Keith Hobbs speaking in a local YouTube interview show, not an actor.

HOBBS:
Um, that’s an issue that is before the courts and I don’t really want to comment on it. All I can say is no good deed goes unpunished, because my wife and I were responsible for bringing victims forward. I think it was a job well done. I mean, that was my former career. I was a police officer for 34 years and when I saw something wrong and I brought it to the authorities… And I’m not going to apologize ever for protecting people.

RYAN:
Hobbs thinks he’s still a cop. It’s what a few people told us when his name came up. Five years ago, he performed a citizen’s arrest on a drunk who interrupted a public event he was presiding over as mayor, physically restraining the guy until a real cop came and took over. Is it possible that he was shaking down Zaitzeff as some sort of cowboy justice?

RYAN:
The mayor knew that Sandy Zaitzeff had assaulted women for at least two days before he took that information to the police. If the mayor of Thunder Bay came into possession of video evidence of Sandy Zaitzeff assaulting women, why wouldn’t he just take it straight to the police? And if, indeed, there was an extortion attempt, what if Zaitzeff had just paid up? Would we have ever known about any of this?

RYAN:
Anyhow, he didn’t. Because Zaitzeff thought he had leverage on cops. That’s based on what Hobbs says. Mayor Keith Hobbs alleges that on November 19th, two days after Loverin says Hobbs threatened Sandy Zaitzeff, Sandy Zaitzeff threatened him back.

RYAN:
If Hobbs ever went to the cops with his videos, Zaitzeff would release a video of his own. This video, Zaitzeff threatened, would, quote, “submarine and bury Hobbs.” The sole purpose of releasing it, Hobbs alleges, would be to impugn the credibility, professional reputation and personal reputation of Mayor Keith Hobbs. What video was he talking about? You’ve already heard it.

ZAITZEFF:
Put the mayor in. Marisa… (indistinct).

MARISA:
(overlaps) I’m just thinking…

ZAITZEFF:
I want Marisa in this, too. Show the mayor. I want to see the mayor. The mayor’s in this.

HOBBS:
No use showing me.

GROUP:
<laughing>

ZAITZEFF:
No, you need to be in this.

HOBBS:
You’re talking about big clowns.

GROUP:
<laughing>

ZAITZEFF:
No, take a look. The mirror’s in this, ‘cause this is going to HBO.

RYAN:
Let’s stop for a second and consider this part.

RYAN:
You might think that a video of a drunk Sandy Zaitzeff, shirtless, swearing, stumbling, sloppily proposing to his girlfriend… You might think that video impugns the reputation of no one other than Sandy Zaitzeff. But Zaitzeff’s threat, if in fact he made it, was this: “I may look like a clown in that video, but if you expose me as a sexual abuser, then I will expose you as a mayor who hangs out with a clown who is a sexual abuser. And that’s what he did… allegedly. All we know for certain is that both videos were released and both men were arrested and charged.

MALE NEWSCASTER:
It’s a story making headlines right across the country.

FEMALE NEWSCASTER:
Sixty-five-year-old Keith Hobbs, and his wife Marissa, have been charged with one count each of extortion and obstruction of justice. Another woman, 46-year-old Mary Voss, is charged with extortion.

MALE NEWSCASTER:
According to reliable sources, Zaitzeff posted the video because Hobbs indicated he’d be contacting police about alleged sexual impropriety by the well-known lawyer.

RYAN:
On November 20th 2016, Thunder Bay police showed up at Zaitzeff’s house with a search warrant. They marched to his electrical utility closet, and there were the guns. The cop sees them. on November 25th, 2016 Sandy Zaitzeff was arrested and charged with assault, sexual assault, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching and mischief, and was taken into custody in the Thunder Bay jail, considered by some to be the worst in Canada. He would remain there for over 100 days, denied bail. Several more sexual assault and assault related charges involving more individuals were later added. Once he was incarcerated Zaitzeff allegedly texted Hobbs a message you’re about to regret the day you were born. Zaitzeff then had the video posted to YouTube claims Hobbs, and then it was live. Zaitzeff’s belly, Hobbs hanging out, the clowns, the proposal… All online for the world to see. There’s more.

RYAN:
The RCMP realized they can’t be the ones to investigate Keith Hobbs. The case would have to go to the Ontario Provincial Police, but it was the Thunder Bay cops’ job to pass along the file. Everything seemed to be going fine with that process, for about a week. Then, on December 22nd, two Thunder Bay City cops called the RCMP to ask for advice. Mayor Keith Hobbs had been ringing them up and hounding them for info on the investigation. He knew. Someone had told him that he was under investigation and he was trying to get ahead of it. The RCMP officers promptly called Thunder Bay Police Chief J.P. Levesque with disturbing news. His department had a leak.

RYAN:
“Yeah,” replied Chief Levesque, “That was me.” He calmly explained that a day earlier he had bumped into Hobbs at a retirement party for his deputy chief. He pulled the mayor aside and told him everything. Chief Levesque then said sorry to the Mounties for not telling them that he had done so sooner. The call ended and the two RCMP officers just stared at each other.

MALE NEWSCASTER:
Good evening and thank you for joining us. Criminal charges against Thunder Bay police chief J.P. Levesque.

FEMALE NEWSCASTER:
The OPP announced yesterday that it was charging the veteran police officer with breach of trust and obstruction of justice.

RYAN:
Here’s how it’s all landed so far. Levesque got off completely.

FEMALE NEWSCASTER:
The city’s police chief there, J.P. Levesque, has been acquitted now of all charges.

RYAN:
His defence was that he didn’t mean any harm. He wasn’t trying to help the mayor. He didn’t even get along with the mayor. He considered Mayor Hobbs to be unpredictable, verbally volatile, temperamental, emotional, and difficult to deal with. He was trying to help the woman who would be filling in for him as chief, while he was on vacation.

RYAN:
He didn’t want Hobbs to find out about the investigation while he was away and then make life difficult for the fill-in chief, Inspector Sylvie Hoff. The judge ruled that it was within the chief’s discretion to tell the mayor whatever he wanted to… and Levesque walked. He’s since retired.

RYAN:
Sandy Zaitzeff lost his license to practice law and was charged with a slew of offenses stemming from five alleged victims. He would later plead guilty to four of those charges, and become a registered sex offender with a record of propositioning a minor.

RYAN:
If he had been convicted of the initial charges, Sandy Zaitzeff could have spent the rest of his life in prison. The prosecution didn’t even ask for jail time. Everybody seemed to agree, 119 days in the Thunder Bay jail was enough incarceration. Besides, he wasn’t in his right mind when he committed those crimes.

HUTCHISON:
Your Honour, it’s fair to say he became a different person when he drank. It’s important that you know that the individual presented in the facts is a product of a difficult time and circumstances that put Zaitzeff in a very vulnerable place.

RYAN:
He’d suffered enough already. Here’s how one of his victims suffered in her own words, read by an actor

UNIDENTIFIED VICTIM:
Getting out of bed every day has been a struggle. I’ve lost friendships. My reputation has been damaged by rumors I’m always too busy pretending that my life is still normal or wondering when this all ends. Finally I’ve lost trust in myself my judgment. My peers. And the opposite sex I don’t feel safe being outside I’m riddled with anxiety because I fear that one day he’s going to show up to do me harm threaten me or somebody I love or care about.

RYAN:
And here’s another woman who alleges that Sandy Zaitzeff assaulted her. One of the women whose charges against him were abandoned by the prosecution because, she was told, it was her word against his. Well, these are her words and this is her voice, though we have altered it to protect her anonymity.

UNIDENTIFIED VICTIM:
I carry this every day. I carry what he did to me every day as a wound in me that I don’t think we’ll ever be healed. I have this person over 40 who I trusted fairly and was someone I believed was there to help me, and had my best interests at heart. And now, for what happened to me, I’ve had to now see a psychiatrist because I can’t deal with the fact that any man in this world would ever make me feel so small and weak and helpless. I don’t care if it was a drunken stupor, he wasn’t in the right frame of mind. “She’s okay.” No, I’m not. I am now going to live with this for the rest of my life. And, no, I don’t think the sentencing was fair at all, because he can carry on but that doesn’t mean his victims have.

RYAN:
Today, he’s a free man, more or less. His probation lifts completely in the summer of 2019. Amazingly, when word that the mayor had been charged with criminal extortion hit the local news, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

COURT OFFICIAL:
The charges are unrelated to municipal business or issues. The mayor has advised he will be absent from his public duties in accordance with city policy as he deals with this personal matter.

RYAN:
The mayor went on voluntary leave for a few months paid leave. Then he went back to work. He pretty much refused to discuss the case with the press, and the press pretty much accepted that, and didn’t ask him.

RYAN:
We asked him about all of this and he told us through his lawyer.

HOBB’S LAWYER:
All of your questions about my clients will be answered clearly unequivocally and transparently in a public trial in the Superior Court of Justice in Thunder Bay. It should be made perfectly clear that both Keith and Marisa Hobbs deny any and all allegations of criminal misconduct and look forward to their public vindication at trial.

RYAN:
Most people here seem okay with the whole thing.

MAN:
The mayor is absolutely fine. We have a fine mayor. He’s been railroaded. That doesn’t reflect negatively on our community. And, and he may or may not run for a third term. If he does, I’ll vote for him.

WOMAN:
Um, I can’t really comment on that. I don’t know all the details, just from what I read in the newspaper. But you know, I’m sure there are both sides to the story.

WILLOW:
As I record this today, Keith Hobbs is still the mayor of Thunder Bay, Ontario. I tell Willow Fiddler, reporter for APTN, just how baffling this all is to me as an outsider. She feels my pain.

WILLOW:
Well, people are continuing to die here. You’ve got Chief of Police, you have a mayor, both charged with criminal things. And no one wants to talk about it because they’re calling it “personal issues.” No, not from my perspective, it’s not separate. Um, and I… And I think that… And I’m not sure if that’s a cultural thing. It may be a cultural thing, because I come from a First Nation community where there is no separating between personal and your community. It’s all one.

RYAN:
It was all just personal issues, couldn’t have affected anyone’s public duties. Well, here’s how those “personal issues” resolved. The civil suit against Zaitzeff was never pursued. The defamation claim against him also has a high chance of being abandoned. The obstruction of justice charges against Keith Hobbs and his wife were dropped at a pre-trial hearing. But the criminal trial of Keith Hobbs, Marissa Hobbs and Mary Voss for extortion will likely be held as soon as this spring. The media attention might be modest, since Hobbs will no longer be mayor when his case goes to trial. He isn’t running for a third term and his last day as mayor will be November 30th. Maybe at trial we’ll get answers to the questions we couldn’t figure out. We still don’t know how the mayor got his hands on videos of Sandy Zaitzeff sexually assaulting women in the first place, if, in fact, he had them on that USB key. We don’t know if Hobbs was just trying to protect victims, as he claims, or if he had any other motive for informing on Zaitzeff. And we still don’t know what was up with the clowns. But there is a bigger question I don’t expect the trial to address: What the fuck?

RYAN:
I mean what the fuck were the mayor and the chief of police thinking involving themselves in this mess? The story I just told you took place at a time of peak crisis in Thunder Bay. A few months before, the mayor was filmed in Sandy’s Zaitzeff ‘s basement. A massive inquest into the deaths of Indigenous teenagers had just concluded, handing Mayor Hobbs one-hundred-and-forty-five safety recommendations he needed to implement in order to prevent more tragedies. That’s something he might have been doing instead.

RYAN:
A week after that basement video was shot, the Office of the Independent Police Review announced a systemic review of the Thunder Bay police. When Chief Levesque tipped off the mayor at a retirement party, because he was about to go on vacation for three weeks, that investigation of his police force for systemic racism was well underway. That’s something that might have had his attention instead. And, in the spring of 2017, when Keith Hobbs had just launched his defamation claim against Sandy Zaitzeff and was waiting to find out if the police investigation of himself and his wife would result in criminal charges… Well, that’s when 17-year-old Tammy Keeash and 14-year-old Josiah Begg went missing, their bodies later found in city waterways. Here’s human rights lawyer Julian Falconer.

FALCONER:
If you think Keith Hobbs is the problem then you don’t understand the problem. The problem isn’t one person. The problem is a community and a culture. They are trying to keep a way of life they don’t want to let go. And if we, as a society, wish to support and protect our indigenous brothers and sisters, then we have to start replacing the leaders, here. It is important to understand, when I say “leaders,” what I’m talking about. I’m not just talking about the obvious ones, like the mayor or the chair of the police board. I mean, replace all of them, one by one.

RYAN:
“Replace all of them, one by one.” It almost sounds violent. This proposal, to wipe out the leadership of an entire city… It’s a bit more radical than what I expect to hear from a distinguished lawyer.

FALCONER:
I am not advocating a civil war, but let me ask you when family after families have been ignored mistreated and eggs are thrown at children when death after death becomes questionable not just not investigated well. I need you to know there is an activity down by the river that involves throwing indigenous people into the river when they’re too drunk to defend themselves. I am very confident that goes on. There’s just too many cases to explain it otherwise. Uh, at the end of the day, you tell me… Doesn’t that sound like bloodshed?

RYAN:
Next time on “Thunder Bay.”

DARRYL:
And then that’s when they threw me into that river. Then like I… Like I started thinking that I was going to die

RYAN:
Thunder Bay is produced by Jesse Brown and hosted by me, Ryan McMahon. This episode was written by me, Jesse Brown and Kevin Sexton. Additional research by Brigitte Noël. Additional reporting by Jolene Banning and David Crosby. Music by Kris Dirksen. Legal documents and statements read by Allie Graham, Michael Healy, Corey Marr and Kevin Sexton. Mixing in sound design by Chandra Bulucon. Our work on this episode was built on journalism by many others including Kenneth Jackson and Willow Fiddler of APTN, Jon Thompson of TVO, Jody Porter and Kris Ketonen of CBC, Doug Diaczuk of TBNewsWatch, and David Bruser of the Toronto Star. Special thanks to the Trail Went Cold podcast for helping spread the word about this show. You should check out that terrific podcast, too. CANADALAND managing editor is Kevin Sexton. We investigate, report and podcast with

Convert audio to text with Sonix. Sonix is the best online audio transcription software

Sonix accurately transcribed the audio file, “Chapter 2 – Clowns.mp3” , using cutting-edge AI. Get a near-perfect transcript in minutes, not hours or days when you use Sonix. Sonix is the industry-leading audio-to-text converter. Signing up for a free trial is easy.

Convert mp3 to text with Sonix

For audio files (such as “Chapter 2 – Clowns.mp3”), thousands of researchers and podcasters use Sonix to automatically transcribe mp3 their audio files. Easily convert your mp3 file to text or docx to make your media content more accessible to listeners.

Best audio transcription software: Sonix

Researching what is “the best audio transcription software” can be a little overwhelming. There are a lot of different solutions. If you are looking for a great way to convert mp3 to text , we think that you should try Sonix. They use the latest AI technology to transcribe your audio and are one my favorite pieces of online software.

More from this series
The verdict arrives in the trial that everyone’s talking about. Can there be justice? As Thunder Bay grapples with the truth about itself, people are still dying. Kids are still dying. So where do we go from here?
December 15, 2020
When a system is broken, you can work outside of it to create something new, or you can try to change it from within. But what happens when you need the system?
November 30, 2020
It’s infamous as the homicide and hate crime capital of Canada. And now, Thunder Bay has been officially diagnosed as racist. But so what? Does knowing this mean that anything will change? Welcome to Canada's first post-truth town.
November 16, 2020
New stories from Thunder Bay. Coming November, 2020.
October 18, 2020
A new investigative series about the cocaine smuggling ring inside Vice Media.
March 1, 2020
Different city, different secrets.
October 27, 2019
What if Thunder Bay isn't broken?  What if it's working just as it's supposed to?
November 25, 2018
Agnew Johnston was a lawyer who represented the state against criminals. But he was a criminal himself, paying underage girls for sex. His defence? Everybody in Thunder Bay is doing it, so why are you picking on me? The story of a case that implicated Thunder Bay's elite. 
November 12, 2018
all podcasts arrow All Podcasts
Thunder Bay