Mail bomb victim Maria Mitousis hesitated before opening 'weird' package
Mitousis lost a hand and suffered other injuries from exploding recording device
Maria Mitousis had finished nine holes of golf and breakfast with friends on July 3, 2015, when she stopped by her River Avenue law office to check some paperwork and emails.
Her friends had persuaded her to take the rest of the day off.
"I was just going to stop, do a few things and leave," she testified Wednesday.
Minutes later she was gravely injured when she unwittingly detonated a bomb that had been mailed to her. She lost her right hand and suffered other injuries in the blast.
Guido Amsel, 51, is charged with five counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault in connection with three bombs delivered to his ex-wife Iris and two law firms in July 2015, and a December 2013 explosion at his ex-wife's rural municipality of St. Clements. Mitousis was the only person injured by the bombs.
Mitousis, who had represented Iris in a number of court actions against Amsel, said she had walked into her office and saw a puffy, bubble-wrapped envelope on her desk with her name handwritten on it.
Mitousis opened the package with scissors and found a pouch holding a digital recorder and a handwritten note.
"There were instructions that it would help me with my case and that I should press play," she said.
Mitousis said she hesitated for a moment, thinking it was "weird and that she should talk to the firm's managing partner, Connie Petersen."
"Then I thought, no, that's silly … and I read the note again."
Mitousis said she closed her office door, held the recorder in her right hand and pressed play.
"I remember the sound. It was like a firecracker ... and felt like I was reeling for a moment," she said. "I remember feeling pain in my stomach, burning. I felt throbbing in my right hand, my left hand, too."
Mitousis said she heard her legal assistant screaming on the phone for help and saw Petersen running down the hall toward her.
"I was alert in the sense I knew I had to talk to these people to get help," she said. "I didn't know how badly I was injured, but I was bleeding from my neck and chin, so I knew there was a problem there."
My right arm was completely wrapped and I didn't have a hand any longer.- Maria Mitousis
Police and paramedics arrived and Mitousis was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery.
When Mitousis awoke the next morning, "my right arm was completely wrapped and I didn't have a hand any longer."
On Tuesday, Iris Amsel testified about business and personal strife between her and her ex-husband, and the defence's suggestion that she herself planted the bombs her former husband is accused of mailing.
Mitousis said she lost tissue to her neck and chin and suffered burns to her chest, stomach and feet. Tissue and ligaments were taken from her left leg to repair damages to her right arm.
Mitousis said she also suffered damage to her ear drum and continues to have numbness to her left hand.
Earlier in her testimony, Mitousis told court of her dealings with Iris Amsel and the accused.
Iris Amsel retained her as lawyer
"I first met Iris in June 2010 ... in the context of Iris needing some help in family court," she said. By that time, the couple had already been divorced six years.
Iris retained Mitousis after Guido refused his consent to allow Iris to take their teenage son on a trip to Germany.
In October 2010, Mitousis filed a statement of claim against Guido on Iris's behalf after he allegedly failed to pay her a $40,000 debt and split the proceeds from construction equipment he had yet to sell.
"The statement of claim was quite simple ... about three pages or so," Mitousis said.
Amsel responded with a counterclaim alleging fraud and breach of trust on the part of Iris, her family and other unnamed parties.
After 4-year legal battle, Amsel dropped claim
"The counterclaim was substantial and substantive, about 20 pages," Mitousis said. "I was surprised to see that, given how simple the matter was in my mind."
In the midst of four years of back and forth wrangling, two sets of lawyers withdrew from Guido's case, leaving him to represent himself before finally abandoning the counterclaim at an October 2014 pre-trial hearing.
"I was surprised to hear Mr. Amsel say that," Mitousis said. "He had taken a very strong position over the years."
Mitousis said at the time she was injured, there were plans to hold an equipment auction to satisfy Guido's outstanding debt to Iris.
Court has heard the auction was never held.
The trial resumes Monday.
- We initially reported that Maria Mitousis represented Guido Amsel's ex-wife, Iris, in the couple's divorce proceedings. In fact, she represented her in family and civil matters after the divorce was finalized.Nov 22, 2017 11:57 AM CT