Appearing for the first time on federal charges related to an alleged murder-for-hire plot, Edgar Steele described himself Tuesday as a "frail" and "elderly" man who's undergone four surgeries in the past six months, including open heart surgery. He also blasted the federal agents for seizing what he said were attorney-client files regarding federal cases with pending appeals.
The 64-year-old attorney, known for his unsuccessful defense of the Aryan Nations in the landmark 2000 case that bankrupted the racist group, represented himself during the hearing and pleaded "absolutely, completely not guilty" to a charge that he hired a man to kill his wife and mother-in-law.
The charge, use of interstate commerce for the commission of murder for hire, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Steele is reportedly on voice record telling an FBI informant “to make sure that they were dead after the accident because Edgar Steele did not want to take care of a paraplegic” and promising to compensate the informant’s family if he got caught, according to a probable cause affidavit prepared by the FBI.
In court Tuesday, Steele said he's not a flight risk and dispute an apparent claim from the government in confidential records that his writings show he would flee prosecution. He said his writings show just the opposite, that he will stand for what he believes in and respects "the American way."
Steele appeared most passionate when arguing against the no contact order between him and the alleged victims. At one point, Assistant U.S Attorney Traci Whelan asked Judge Candy Dale to order Steele to address the judge instead of her. Dale did.
After the no contact order was issued, Steele pointed in the direction of his wife and son, prompting Whelan to say to Dale: "Your honor I just ask that the record reflect that Mr. Steele just pointed at his wife and directed her to get up and talk to me."
Steele said he pointed at his son - not his wife. "I know better than that, your honor," he said. He added, "Understand that this is a very emotional situation for me."
Steele has been in custody since Friday after a raid at his home at 1569 Talache Road, about 10 miles south of Sandpoint and just east of Shepherd Lake.
On Tuesday, just hours after a grand jury indicted him, Steele said federal authorities seized "our life savings" during the raid and that he hopes to hire private counsel but isn't sure he'll be able to. A public defender will be assigned for his bail hearing, set for next Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in Coeur d'Alene.
His court appearance yesterday came just hours after a bomb was discovered on his wife's SUV.
Read the full story: Bomb found on wife's car just before Steele appears in court