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Video shows assassination attempt on Toronto-area lawyer, gunman gets 12 years in prison

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A video recorded by two would-be assassins showing a botched hit on a Toronto-area lawyer ended up as evidence in the trial of a Brantford man who was later sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The video was submitted as evidence during the trial of Thomas Sliwinski.

It shows Sliwinski toting a pistol as he drives after a civil lawyer as she worked to challenge bogus insurance claims lining the pockets of organized criminals in Ontario’s tow truck industry in August 2019.

In June 2023, Sliwinski pleaded guilty to pointing a firearm at lawyer Lisa Carr, unauthorized possession of a loaded restricted firearm. He also plead guilty to manslaughter in connection with a Christmas Eve shooting five years ago.

“The safety is off,” he says in one video, recorded by an unseen associate. “It would be nice to catch her right on that corner right there, it would be beautiful.”

In another video, the pair appear to catch their moment. The car pulls up next to another vehicle, and there’s an audible click – but nothing happens.

“It didn’t work,” Sliwinski says as he pulled back the gun’s slide, and confirms his target, Carr, didn’t see him. “It jammed.”

The event might have never been discovered but Sliwinski, 42, was later arrested for possessing a stolen Mercedes where police found three bullets. Police in Brantford seized his phone, discovered the video clips, and notified York Regional Police.

A police interview video also entered as evidence at the trial shows Sliwinski lying on the floor, barely responding to a police officer asking him for more details about the case and for how to access his phone.

But in a lengthy interview, he would admit to his role in the attempted shooting, as well as doing surveillance for a hit that ultimately killed Soheil Rafipour on Christmas Eve 2018.

He told officers a man named “Zee” ordered the hit on Carr. Sliwinski said he didn't want to kill Carr and intended to botch the hit. He said he took the recording to show Zee he had tried.

“Mr. Sliwinski said he made some terrible mistakes and created a trail of damage, which he regrets and for which he takes full responsibility,” said Justice Michele Fuerst in her ruling. “At the time of his offenses he would do anything to get drugs.”

While a factor, she said, that was not an excuse, sentencing him to 12 years behind bars for his role as a “common denominator” in the “appalling events”.

“All of Mr. Sliwinski’s offenses were cold, calculated and callous. They caused terrible harm,” she said.

It was not the first time Carr had been targeted. Her office in a Vaughan strip mall parking lot had been vandalized and set on fire in the past. Another video entered in a different case also showed another man shooting up the office.

That person pointed a gun at a woman he believed was Carr, telling her she was “suing the wrong people.”

Lawyer Heather Sanderson, with the group Canadian Defence Lawyers, said an attack on lawyers, which form part of the country’s justice system, is an attack on all of it – as well as principles of justice this country holds dear.

“It makes me said,” Sanderson said in an interview. “The legal system cannot – cannot – be affected by intimidation.”

Prosecutions in other tow truck cases continue, including two other men charged with first-degree murder in Rafipour’s case, in a trial that begins this week.  

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