Lawyer gets 15 months for his 'breach of trust

…Shoniker's now infamous remarks about being "untouchable" and boasting to the undercover agent that there wasn't a ""f -ing judge"" in this city who would approve a wiretap on his phone.

The Toronto Star
September 7, 2006

Lawyer gets 15 months for his 'breach of trust'
Judge orders jail for theft and money-laundering. Shoniker caught in RCMP sting that targeted gangsters.
John Duncanson and Betsy Posell

A once powerful figure in city and provincial politics was handcuffed and led away from a University Ave. courtroom yesterday after being ordered to spend 15 months in jail for money laundering and theft.

Peter Shoniker, 51, whose many high-placed friends packed the downtown courtroom, slumped into his chair after Ontario Associate Justice Douglas Cunningham said a period of incarceration was needed because his crimes involved a "significant breach of trust," referring to Shoniker's status as a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Shoniker pleaded guilty last month to laundering $750,000 that an undercover RCMP officer told him was stolen pension money. He also admitted to stealing $50,000 in RCMP funds that he falsely claimed he had used to pay off police officers. Defence lawyer Edward Greenspan yesterday produced a $50,000 cheque as restitution from his family.

Cunningham said he had "little doubt" the unsavoury tale has been a wake-up call to Shoniker who had been shown in evidence to be a man who was caught in a police sting in the "midst of a downward spiral" involving alcohol and prescription drug abuse. Court heard he was also suffering from sleep deprivation.

Yet, the judge continued, it was clear Shoniker was "not intoxicated while these offences were committed" and said even cursory reading of the police intercepts made Shoniker's guilt clear. While not the target of the original police investigation, Shoniker "took the bait" and ran with the money, he noted.

Before passing sentence, Cunningham asked if Shoniker had anything to say.

Wearing a blue suit, bright green tie and trademark cowboy boots, the lawyer stood up and apologized to the court, members of the judiciary, defence bar, Crown counsel and law enforcement "for the deep sense of shame and embarrassment."

The agreed statement of facts included Shoniker's now infamous remarks about being "untouchable" and boasting to the undercover agent that there wasn't a "f -ing judge" in this city who would approve a wiretap on his phone.

The decision to go after Shoniker came in 2003 during an RCMP- led investigation into organized crime in Ontario.

In the courtroom sat his estranged wife, lawyer Renee Vinett, his stepdaughter and virtually all of the supporters who had submitted glowing character letters, including former Toronto deputy police chief Steve Reesor and retired Maj. Gen. Lewis MacKenzie.

Greenspan had been seeking a conditional sentence of two years less a day in the community under house arrest, "which ironically would be a lot longer than the sentence that he in fact got," the veteran attorney said afterward.

He said while Shoniker has fallen from grace, he predicted "Peter will rise from this and end up being a great contributor to our society."

Many credit Shoniker for bringing Julian Fantino to Toronto in 1999 as chief of police.

Greenspan said he had not discussed the possibility of an appeal with Shoniker. "But I would expect after this very lengthy ordeal that he has gone through, that the ordeal should come to an end and he should get on with his life."

Shoniker's co-accused, Toronto jeweller "Bobby" Adeli Tabrizi received a conditional sentence for his part, which Cunningham described as "more than a passing involvement … though in a secondary role."

It will be up to the law society to determine if Shoniker remains a member of the bar.

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