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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: closing arguments

Steele’s defense points to Fairfax set up

There's no doubt that the federal government has evidence in its case against Edgar Steele, his lawyer says, but all that evidence points back to Larry Fairfax, who claims to have been hired by Steele to kill his wife and mother-in-law.

The pipe bomb strapped to Cyndi Steele's SUV was Fairfax's “act of defiance,” Robert McAllister said, referring to a book Fairfax has said he wants to write. 
 
He reminded jurors that Cyndi Steele said there were problems with the recordings in which her husband discussed the plot to kill her with Fairfax, such as unexplained breaks and syntax issues. 
 
“There is one conclusion about those recordings: they are nothing but tar,” McAllister said. “…It's fantasy talk; it's fiction; it's Larry Fairfax talking and trying to set up Edgar Steele.”
 
“Unfortunately in real life, this is more than just trying to write a book, it's putting people's lives in danger,” McAllister said
 
He emphasized that Fairfax admits to attaching a pipe bomb to Cyndi Steele's SUV but didn't tell the FBI about it when he told them he could set up Edgar Steele.
 
“No one knows that until June 15, when it's found,” he said. 
 
McAllister said Steele had no reason to want his wife dead. Claims by the prosecution that Steele was in love with a woman he met on the Internet are wrong  - the communication was part of Steele's examination of the Russian bride scam.
 
“The whole Russian bride scam was a case, something to work on. It was something his family laughed about, because it was so fake,” McAllister said. “It's fantasy… it's not a motive to commit murder. it's not a reason to commit murder.”
 
He said the Steeles talked regularly on the phone, including a 43-minute conversation the day before prosecutors say Cyndi was to be killed. McAllister also reminded jurors that Edgar Steele recently paid $2,779 to save his mother-in-law's home.
 
“If there's really a plot or a plan, do you go take that kind of money and give it to someone else, who you're supposedly going to kill?” McAllister said.
 
“The evidence in this case is that he loves Cyndi Steele, that he spent 25 years - now 26 - married to her with three children,” McAllister said.
 
He said the couple did have problems 10 years ago, but “the evidence in the next 10 years is that they raised their family” lived in North Idaho and were happy.
 
“Never did Edgar Steele show anything besides love for his family,” McAllister said. He pointed to the longtime friends who told jurors how shocked they were by the allegations.
 
He said the phone call Steele made to his wife from the jail doesn't qualify as victim tampering. Cyndi Steele has said she wasn't influenced by the call, and Edgar Steele didn't know of the specifics of the recordings when he called Cyndi Steele.
 
“Yes she doesn't believe that her husband is trying harm her, but she doesn't know about what Mr. Fairfax or what (his cousin) Mr. (James) Maher might want to do to her,” McAllister said. “All she knows is a bomb was found under her car.”
 
“I'm sure the government will say 'she's in denial, she's wrong,' but the fact is this is the victim…coming before a jury and saying 'I don't believe it.'”

Prosecutor lays out case against Steele

Though Edgar Steele's fingerprints are not on the pipe bomb that was strapped under his wife's car, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws told jurors in his closing argument that the 65-year-old North Idaho lawyer's “legal fingerprints” are all over it.

Haws played portions of the recordings in which Steele discusses the plot to kill Cyndi Steele with his handyman, Larry Fairfax, whom he'd promised money to murder his wife and mother-in-law.
 
He said jurors are to be more skeptical of Fairfax's testimony because of his involvement in the case, but that everything Fairfax has said is supported by other evidence.
 
In one of the recorded meetings with Steele, Fairfax is given $400 to pay for his travels to Portland. The FBI seized that money after the meeting and knows Fairfax didn't have anything on him before he met with him.
 
“This is corroboration,” Haws said. “This says Mr. Fairfax was telling you the truth.”
 
Haws read several quotes from the recording in which Steele urges Fairfax to “get this job done” and mentions the possible car insurance payment as a “powerful incentive.”
 
Haws also played a portion of the phone call Steele made to his wife after his arrest. He reminded jurors of Steele's reaction when police falsely told him his wife was dead. Police described Steele's reaction as flat and forced until they told him he was under arrest for murder for hire and a fecal odor filled the air.
 
“I would submit that his body reacted and told more truth than his mouth did,” Haws said.
 
Defense lawyers have suggested the recordings of Steele and Fairfax were altered or manufactured, but Haws said there's no proof of that.
 
Steele would like jurors to think that a “Mission Impossible plot” has been created by the government, Haws said, but “the recordings themselves tell you they are accurate” from the flow and syntax to the presence of outside noises that carry through statements.
 
Haws said the thought that Fairfax could have “the sophistication and the tools” to put together a recording in the 30 minutes he was to visit with Steele is wrong.
 
“That can't happen,” he said.
 
Haws said the defense never gave a motive for why Fairfax would have really been the one to want to kill Cyndi Steele.
 
Haws said Edgar Steele wanted to start a relationship with a 25-year-old Ukrainian woman. 
 
Defense has said the communication was research into what Steele believed was a scam involving Russian mail order bridges, but Haws said they've never mentioned a case number or book that Steele is pursuing.
 
“The evidence here is overwhelming, it's way beyond a reasonable doubt as to what this man intended,” Haws said.

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