THUNDER BAY - Counsel for former Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs and his wife Marisa is painting a very different picture from the crown, portraying the alleged extortion victim as the one pressuring the accused by offering ‘silence for cash.’
Toronto-based lawyer, Brian Greenspan, who is representing the Hobbs’ fervently scrutinized earlier testimony by the alleged extortion victim during cross-examination on Friday, arguing that it was not the accused who were extorting him, but rather the victim attempting to make evidence of possible criminal activity go away by purchasing a house.
“I suggest to you that it’s always you pushing and they are pushing you back,” Greenspan asked. “Isn’t that correct?”
“No, it is not,” the victim replied.
The first week of the extortion trial against Keith and Marisa Hobbs and local resident Mary Voss wrapped up in a Thunder Bay Courtroom on Friday. The alleged victim took to the stand late Wednesday and cross-examination began Friday morning.
The exchange between the victim and Greenspan became heated at times, with Justice Fletcher Dawson even advising the victim that proceedings will move along more efficiently if he listens to the questions carefully and answer the questions asked.
Greenspan questioned the victim regarding his alleged relationship to Keith and Marisa Hobbs, referencing the Hobbs’ approaching him to assist with some business, which Greenspan argued the victim was more involved in than he claimed in earlier testimony.
Greenspan also questioned a cheque for $10,000 given by the victim to the Hobbs’, which was later returned.
“I suggest they never made a request for this cheque, that you made an offer,” Greenspan said.
“No,” the victim replied.
During testimony on Thursday, the victim said the Hobbs’ were struggling financially and approached him for a loan of $300,000.
“I suggest to you that Marisa never asked you for a handout, it was always framed as a loan,” Greenspan said. “Anytime they discussed finances, they were clarifying their position or solidifying their financial position and looking for a loan from someone.”
Correct, but Keith also wanted to be a security consultant and bodyguard to me,” the victim said.
The victim once again said that Keith Hobbs ‘relentlessly’ asked him about ‘stepping into Craig Loverin’s shoes’ and helping the victim with security.
But Greenspan questioned his definition of relentlessly and wanted him to point to any text messages or phone calls that would back up that claim.
“I don’t want to appear argumentative,” the victim said. “From my perspective at that time it felt relentless to me and brought it up many times.”
Greenspan also insinuated that the victim and Loverin, who testified earlier this week, have been in contact with one another regarding the testimony they would provide before the court, which the victim denied.
These allegations were in reference to cash given to Loverin by the victim and the timing and the amount, with the answers provided by the victim on Friday not coinciding with testimony during the preliminary hearing.
“I have not spoken to Loverin before the trial,” the victim said. “I did not speak to Loverin while he was on the witness stand. Absolutely not. I have not got that kind of information from texts or emails. I have been very careful. I have not spoken about anything in the trial with any witness about what my evidence would be or what my evidence is. I respect this court.”
“Pure coincidence?” Greenspan asked.
What’s pure coincidence?”
“Your evidence today corresponds precisely with what Loverin told us.”
“That’s what you’re calling it.”
As for the actual allegations of extortion of purchasing a house for Voss and videos depicting the victim acting erratically and using vulgar language, Greenspan questioned not only when the victim learned about the contents of the video, but also his claim that Hobbs told him an officer with the Thunder Bay Police Service ‘owes him,’ and the drafting of a fake will.
According to the victim, Hobbs described what was on the videos in a ‘general way’ but said it was ‘bad.’
“The suggestion was not fine details, I suggest to you that Keith Hobbs never gave you any details,” Greenspan said.
“He said what was on there was very bad,” the victim responded.
Greenspan asked again about the videos, implying that the victim had seen them before Hobbs mentioned anything and the victim said he did not see the videos or know specifically what was on them.
“After the fake will, this was your second attempt to buy their silence,” Greenspan said. “No one was pressuring you. You were worried about buying their silence.”
“They were pressuring me to buy them a house,” the victim said.
Greenspan then references a series of text messages between the victim and Marisa Hobbs, during which the purchase of a house for $450,000 is mentioned, the signing of an agreement, as well as the victim pressing charges against Voss.
While reading from a copy of the text messages, Greenspan reads that the victim said: “I can press charges against Mary for forcing me to sign the will and assault. That’s extortion. Mary would go to jail for at least five years. You’re saying to them, get them to sign this paper right now or I can press charges.”
“Marisa says I’m done with threats,” Greenspan read to the court. “You are on your own. You then say it’s reality, it’s not a threat against you or Keith. You two are my best friends. Without your kind support, I would probably be dead.”
“It seems to me that your offer of cash for silence, you’re initiating the offer, you’re negotiating the offer and you’re trying to get her to come down from her negotiating position,” Greenspan said. “That’s all you’re doing. You’re negotiating the cash for silence deal. Isn’t that correct?”
“That’s your characterization and it appears that that is accurate in a very general way, yes,” the victim said.
Greenspan added that the victim appears to do terrible things to people and then attempt to ‘buy their silence.’ He then referenced the day the victim was arrested.
“You are going to at the end of the day, when you say when you get arrested, you say to the police and the initial time you are arrested, you say this is a vendetta by the mayor,” Greenspan said.
“I did say that,” the victim said.
“You keep saying it. Every time you get arrested you say this is a vendetta by the mayor. You don’t say this is a double cross by the mayor because he was extorting me. You never say that do you when you’re arrested.”
“I may have said it later on.”
George Joseph, counsel for Voss, will begin his cross-examination of the victim when court resumes on Monday.
Complete coverage of Hobbs trial:
Day 1: Keith Hobbs trial starts today
Witness testifies of interactions between Hobbs and alleged extortion victim
Day 2: Details of extortion allegations heard at Hobbs trial
Day 3: Videos from USB drive given by Hobbs shown in court
Day 4: Alleged extortion victim calls behaviour in videos horrid and awful