Obstruction of Justice, Breach of Trust, Extortion, Oh My!
By Kaelen Pelaia, Staff Writer
The court date for Thunder Bay’s mayor, Keith Hobbs, is fast approaching, as he nears the end of his paid leave following charges of extortion earlier this summer. Hobbs, his spouse Marisa Hobbs and Thunder Bay resident Mary Voss will face their trial on the 26th of September on charges of allegedly extorting Alexander ‘Sandy’ Zaitzeff, a local lawyer alleged to have had contact with the Hobbs’ in the past.
Zaitzeff claims that in late October 2016, Keith Hobbs, Marisa Hobbs, and Mary Voss attempted to “induce Zaitzeff into buying a house for Voss.Court documents state that Hobbs and Voss used “threats, accusations or menaces of disclosing criminal allegations to the police, thereby committing extortion.” In the following November, Zaitzeff allegedly verbally warned Hobbs before Zaitzeff himself was arrested on separate charges.
Events became more complicated in mid-late December 2016, when Thunder Bay police chief J.P. Levesque allegedly leaked the information of a pending charge of extortion to Mayor Keith Hobbs, thereby breaching the trust of a sworn peace officer and revealing confidential information pertaining to a criminal investigation. In the following months leading up to May 2017, Levesque was charged with obstruction of justice and breach of trust by the OPP, while Keith and Marisa Hobbs, according to court documents, “[attempted] to obstruct the course of justice in a judicial proceeding by interfering in a criminal investigation into an allegation of extortion reported to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.”
During this time, Keith Hobbs also filed a statement of claim against Zaitzeff for alleged defamation. Hobbs reportedly seeks $950,000 in total damages from Zaitzeff, whose license to practice law in Canada has since been suspended. Zaitzeff was released on bail on March 27th, 2017.
In July 2017, the charges of extortion against the Hobbs’ and Voss were officially pressed, and OPP Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne revealed to several sources that the investigation into Levesque’s actions were indeed the origin for the pressed charges and arrests. Following the laying of charges, the City of Thunder Bay councilors granted Hobbs a paid 90-day leave of absence, while other council members have all agreed to perform the duties of acting mayor on a monthly basis. City officials have not commented on the proceedings thus far.
Lawyers Brian H. Greenspan and Naomi Lutes, members of a law firm in Toronto and the legal counsel for the Hobbs’, state that Keith and Marisa Hobbs vehemently deny all charges levied against them and will seek appropriate judicial recompense.
Following Levesque’s suspension by the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, Deputy Chief Sylvie Hauth was appointed acting chief of the Thunder Bay Police. Levesque waived his right to a preliminary inquiry earlier this week, choosing instead to be tried by only a judge in a Superior Court. He is expected to stand trial as early as December.
Both the City of Thunder Bay and the Thunder Bay Police have expressed their willingness to accommodate during the stresses of the investigation, but have not made any further comments. Trevor Giertuga, one of the acting mayors performing Hobbs’ duties, says that Hobbs’ charges are not related to municipal business whatsoever.