File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Lawyer Maria Mitousis, who was injured in an office bombing, leans in to Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman prior to speaking to media during a press conference in Winnipeg

‘I can’t believe that:’ Man who sent letter bombs guilty of attempted murder

WINNIPEG — A Manitoba man shook his head in disbelief Thursday after he was found guilty of attempting to murder his former wife and two lawyers when he sent them letter bombs.

“I can’t believe that,” said Guido Amsel as he was led from the Winnipeg court.

Amsel was arrested and charged after three explosive packages were found in July 2015. Maria Mitousis, a lawyer who had represented Amsel’s ex-wife, Iris, in a financial dispute, lost her right hand when one of the bombs went off in her office.

Judge Tracey Lord said Amsel’s motive was to “punish” them for their role in a contentious lawsuit he had filed over profits from an auto-body shop he co-owned with his former wife. He dropped the lawsuit shortly before the letter bombs were sent.

Lord also rejected Guido Amsel’s testimony in his own defence and said his explanation that he was being framed by his wife wasn’t credible.

“His explanations are entirely too remote and coincidental … to be credible,” Lord said in her verdict.

Lord said she was satisfied that DNA evidence found at the crime scenes belonged to Amsel and cited experts who testified there was only a 1 in 1.2 quintillion chance the DNA came from someone other than Amsel.

“I have concluded that the person who sent the devices was Mr. Amsel,” Lord said, adding she also believed he planted a device that went off outside Iris Amsel’s home in December 2013.

“I am satisfied based on Mr. Amsel’s conspiratorial beliefs about those involved in his civil legal proceedings that he had motive to harm them by sending explosive devices. His motive was to punish them for their respective roles in the outcome.”

The trial heard that Amsel was convinced his former wife had stolen millions of dollars from him following their 2004 divorce as they continued to co-manage their business.

He testified that he came to believe she and Mitousis had paid off one of his lawyers, Sara MacEachern, to withdraw from the case. MacEachern’s senior partner, George Orle, was one of the bomb targets.

Amsel also told court he believed his ex-wife sent all the bombs to frame him.

The letter bomb sent to Mitousis was the only one that exploded. The other two were safely detonated by police.

Mitousis was not in court Thursday and could not be reached for comment after the verdict.

But the courtroom was filled with other lawyers, including Victor Bargen. He worked in at the same law firm as Orle, and said the bombs left a lasting impact on the city’s legal community.

“No one, based on this last incident, should feel really safe at work. I’m not saying that to be alarmist or to frighten people,” he said. “But we always think this can happen in other places, well it can happen here, too — and it did.”

He said Mitousis is doing extremely well and is an “absolute beacon for the legal community and the community in general.”

“She is not going to be defeated by this.”

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