POLITICS

Legal representation still a question in Winnipeg law office bombing

07/16/2015 12:44 EDT | Updated 07/16/2016 05:59 EDT
WINNIPEG - A Winnipeg man accused of mailing letter-bombs to his ex-wife and two law firms is looking outside of Manitoba for a lawyer to take his case.

Guido Amsel appeared briefly in court Thursday via video link from the remand centre where he is being held. Steven Keesic, a lawyer acting as a friend of the court, said he had spoken with Amsel and had also started talking to lawyers outside the province who might be willing to take the case.

Amsel, 49, faces charges including attempted murder and aggravated assault following a series of bombings earlier this month in which police say explosive compound was packed into recording devices.

One blast seriously injured lawyer Maria Mitousis, who had represented Amsel's ex-wife in divorce proceedings, as she worked in her small family law practice. Mitousis lost a hand in the explosion and underwent 12 hours of surgery for injuries to her upper body and thighs.

Another bomb was sent to an auto repair shop where Amsel's ex-wife works and was safely detonated by police. A third was sent to a law firm Amsel had hired in a legal battle with his wife over money from a business the couple owned.

Amsel may be having a tough time finding a local lawyer to take his case for a few reasons, said Jay Prober, one of Winnipeg's most high-profile criminal lawyers.

Many lawyers would have a conflict of interest, Prober said, if they had worked with Mitousis, or are friends with her, or have helped a fundraising campaign that has raised $81,000 for her recovery.

Some lawyers may also be concerned about personal safety, he said, but a more widespread feeling is that the crimes Amsel is accused of are an attack on the legal system.

"It's a colleague," Prober said Thursday. "And to me, and perhaps most criminal defence lawyers, that is a roadblock."

Prober added it is in Amsel's own interest to get a lawyer from outside the province because they would have no connection to the law firms Amsel is alleged to have targeted.

Amsel has not entered pleas on the charges and has not yet indicated whether he will seek bail.

Court documents show Amsel and his ex-wife Iris went through a bitter divorce, along with a lawsuit over money from the company they used to jointly run.

However, the records also show Amsel appeared to suddenly drop the legal battle earlier this year. He withdrew accusations that his ex-wife had stolen money from the company and agreed, after years of denial, that he owed her $40,000.

Amsel agreed to auction off vehicles and equipment to pay his former spouse. The auction was scheduled for July 11 — eight days after the first letter-bomb exploded. It was quickly postponed.