Sirens & Gavels

In ruse, FBI told Steele wife was dead

BOISE - The day Edgar Steele was arrested for an alleged murder plot against his wife, investigators first told him his wife had died in a car crash to see if he would go along with alibis he'd mentioned in a secretly recorded conversation with an FBI informant.

The 65-year-old lawyer did so, FBI Special Agent Mike Sotka testified today, including making a comment that he suspected his wife was having an affair with Larry Fairfax.
 
Investigators had just told Steele that Fairfax was involved in the crash but was coming out of a coma and beginning to talk, Sotka testified.
 
Steele had told Farifax that if Fairfax was ever caught down in Oregon, Steele would tell authorities that Fairfax was having an affair with his wife, Sotka testified. Sotka is in charge of the North Idaho Violent Crimes Task Force, which led the investigation into Steele.
 
Agents soon told Steele his wife wasn't actually dead and that they knew he'd hired Fairfax to kill her.
Steele stood up and and the "odor of fecal matter" filled the air, Sotka said. 
 
The agents "feared that Mr. Steele had defecated himself," Sotka said.
 
But defense lawyer Robert McAllister emphasized that Steele never confessed to the murder plot during that ruse by the FBI.
 
Sotka said he would have liked for Steele to have confessed, but he was more there "to see if he was going to follow his alibi and make statements that he made the day before about what his alibi would be."
 
Sotka said Steele's reaction to news that his wife had been killed in a car crash, and that his mother-in-law had been shot to death in her home, was not typical.
 
 But McAllister questioned why Sotka didn't feel Steele's statement of "what the f**k"?" qualified as shock.
 
"That's three words," Sotka replied.
 
McAllister also emphasized that the recording of the conversation between Fairfax and Steele isn't original -
it's a version of the recording that was downloaded from the recorder to a computer.
 
"The defense doesn't have an opportunity to listen or examine the original recording, isn't that correct, sir?" McAllister asked Sotka.
 
Sotka disagreed. 
 
He said that because the FBI does not listen to recordings directly from the device, the first download is considered the original copy.
 
Fairfax is the next witness. His testimony will continue about 1:30 p.m., Boise time, after a 15-minute break. Court is expected to let out at 3 p.m., Boise time.



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