Posts tagged: Edgar Steele
A key defense witness for imprisoned murder-for-hire plotter Edgar Steele has been sentenced to prison in Washington for stealing cars.
Daryl J. Hollingsworth, 41, pleaded guilty this week to two counts of second-degree taking a motor vehicle without permission and was sentenced to 22 months in prison.
The charges stem from Hollingsworth stealing cars July 5, 2010 and June 22, 2009. Hollingsworth has at least 13 previous felony convictions, including for theft, forgery, second-degree kidnapping and second-degree robbery.
He was in the Bonner County Jail when he met Steele, who was awaiting trial on federal charges alleging he'd hired Sagle-area handyman Larry Fairfax to kill his wife, Cyndi Steele.
Hollingsworth testified at Steele's trial in Boise last year that he was asked by Fairfax to design the cover of his book to include a “picture of Larry Fairfax's logging truck running over an Aryan Nations member.”
Steele was a lawyer for the Aryan Nations in a 2000 lawsuit that bankrupted the racist group. Holllingsworth said he also was asked to include a picture of an FBI agent stabbing Fairfax in the back.
The testimony was aimed at discrediting Fairfax, but a jury convicted Steele on all charges in May 2011. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison in November and is being housed at a maximum-security prison in Victorville, Calif.
Fairfax is scheduled to be released from prison at the end of this month on weapons charges related to a pipe bomb he planted on Cyndi Steele's car.
Hollingsworth is in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to a state prison.
Before he was sentenced to 50 years in prison Wednesday, Edgar Steele told the court he wanted his lawyer at trial to show jurors the underwear he was wearing when he was arrested to dispute FBI claims that he may have defecated himself.
Steele said Robert McAllister, who has since been disbarred for unrelated reasons, refused, and Steele criticized the move as stifling a chance to show jurors at his murder-for-hire trial last spring that lead investigator and FBI agent Mike Sotka “was a liar.”
Under questioning from prosecutors during the trial in Boise last spring, Sotka said Steele stood up and an “odor of fecal matter” filled the air when FBI agents told him they knew of the murder plot.
The agents “feared that Mr. Steele had defecated himself,” Sotka said, though he never said they verified Steele did so. The FBI had told Steele his wife and mother-in-law had been killed in a ruse to observe his reaction before his arrest in June 2010.
On Wednesday, Steele said he began to suspect something was not right when the agents told him his mother-in-law had been shot to death.
“I did smell something, and it wasn't the odor of defecation - one of many lies (FBI agent Mike) Sotka told to the jury,” Steele said. “I have the underwear I was wearing that day…hasn't been washed…I couldn't get McAllister to bring them in to show Sotka was a liar.”
Steele also took issue with Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan telling the court he had liposuction after his heart surgery. Whelan said undergoing the procedure shows Steele wasn't bed-ridden and incapable after the surgery. Steele said the procedure wasn't “frivolous” and was done because he was self conscious about his breast size.
The FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office disputes Steele's claims of lies and corruption.
“Mr Steele was targeted for investigation, convicted at trial and sentenced to prison ebcause of his own criminal conduct, and for no other reason,” according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill denied the motion in an order filed today. Read his 18-page ruling here.
Steele, 65, is to be sentenced Wednesday by Winmill in Coeur d'Alene. Prosceutors are seeking 50 years in prison.
A jury in Boise convicted him of four felonies May 5 for paying his handyman, Larry Fairfax, in silver to kill his wife and mother-in-law with a car bomb so he could spend time with a young Ukrainian woman he met online.
Steele's been in jail since his arrest in June 2010. Fairfax is serving 27 months for placing a pipe bomb under Cyndi Steele's car and not telling authorites.
“To plan the murder of an innocent spouse is unthinkably heartless,” federal prosecutors Marc Haws and Traci Whelan wrote in a sentencing recommendation in U.S. District Court. “To manipulate a financially desperate neighbor to commit the murder with a violent car bomb explosion is depraved.”
Prosecutors compared Steele, a former lawyer to Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler and the self-described “attorney for the damned,” to Raskolnikov, the main character in Fyodor Dostoyevski’s novel “Crime and Punishment.”
“In his plotting, Edgar Steele seems modeled on Raskolnikov: too far above the law, and too smart to get caught,” prosecutors wrote.
A North Idaho attorney convicted of hiring a hitman to kill his wife should spend 50 years in prison for his “chillingly calculated” crimes, prosecutors said in recent court filings.
Edgar J. Steele, 65, is to be sentenced Nov. 9 at 9 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene. A jury convicted him of four felonies May 5 after a two-week trial in Boise for paying his handyman, Larry Fairfax, in silver to kill his wife and mother-in-law with a car bomb so he could spend time with a young Ukrainian woman he met online.
“To plan the murder of an innocent spouse is unthinkably heartless,” federal prosecutors Marc Haws and Traci Whelan wrote in a 13-page sentencing memorandum filed Oct. 24 in U.S. District Court. “To manipulate a financially desperate neighbor to commit the murder with a violent car bomb explosion is depraved.”
Prosecutors compared Steele, a former lawyer to Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler and the self-described “attorney for the damned,” to Raskolnikov, the main character in Fyodor Dostoyevski's novel “Crime and Punishment.”
“In his plotting, Edgar Steele seems modeled on Raskolnikov: too far above the law, and too smart to get caught,” prosecutors wrote.
Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, (pictured with attorney Wesley Hoyt after the verdict in May) believes he is innocent and a victim of a government conspiracy to silence him.
Fairfax secretly recorded Steele discussing the plot but was arrested after Steele was because Cyndi Steele found a pipe bomb under her car that Fairfax had affixed weeks earlier.
Fairfax told FBI agents he didn't tell them about the bomb because it was rigged not to work and was no longer attached to the vehicle, but testimony at trial showed otherwise. Fairfax was sentenced in May to 27 months in prison.
Steele's lawyer Robert McAllister was disbarred in Colorado shortly after the trial for ethical violations unrelated to Steele's case, including misusing client money. In a motion for a new trial, McAllister has said he was ineffective as Steele's counsel during trial because he was distracted by his pending disbarment.
The motion has not yet been ruled on by the court.
Steele's new lawyer, Wesley Hoyt, did not return a phone call seeking comment today.
The minimum sentences for each of Steele's convictions - use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire, use of explosive materials to commit a federal felony, possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence and tampering with a victim - is 40 years.
But prosecutors say such a sentence “would not adequately reflect the totality of the Defendant's actions in plotting to kill his wife, commissioning pipe bombs and obstructing or tampering with a witness into consideration; it would punish him only for the use of an explosive or destructive device.”
They are recommending U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill sentence Steele to 600 months in prison, or 50 years.
Prosecutors said Steele had opportunities to change his mind but because “heartlessly more insistent” that Fairfax (pictured) “get this job done” by any means, including a gun shot or car crash. (Federal agents actually told Steele his wife had been run off the road in a ruse just before his arrest. They say he stood up and a fecal matter filled the air when they told him they actually knew of the murder plot.)
In the sentencing memorandum, prosecutors include several quotes from Steele's recording with Fairfax prior to his arrest. A sampling: “Go get, get this job done, Larry.” “Okay, I'm counting on it. I mean, Larry I am really up against it, it has to happen right now.” “Well, you better not get your f**king ass caught.”
Prosecutors also quoted Steele discussing the need for Fairfax to make sure Cyndi Steele dies because he doesn't want to take care of a paraplegic.
“These few, chilling words from Steele's own heart, mind and mouth establish the outrageous circumstances of his offenses,” prosecutors wrote.
Steele had no previous criminal record and was a long-time attorney handling civil cases. Steele has said his ideologies and defense of racists like Butler motivated his prosecution, but prosecutors say “nothing could be further from the truth.”
“His ideologies were no reason to bring this case, and his ideologies were no dissuasion from bringing this case,” prosecutors wrote. “Incarceration is warranted in this case, not because of what Edgar Steele's ideologies re, nor because of who Edgar Steele is, but because of what he did to commit these crimes.”
The recently disbarred lawyer who defended North Idaho attorney Edgar Steele at his murder-for-hire trial says he acted ineffectively because he was distracted by his own legal problems.
Robert McAllister said his thinking process during Steele's trial in Boise, which ended with his conviction on all counts in May, was disrupted by the pending disbarment proceeding in Colorado, which stemmed from allegations that he embezzled money from clients.
“…I assumed I could perform was well as I had performed previously, not understanding the full extent that the prospect of disbarment would have on me,” McAllister wrote.
McAllister's statement is included in a 50-page motion for a new trial filed this week in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene.
The U.S. Attorney's Office has until Sept. 12 to respond to the motion. A hearing before a judge has not been scheduled.
Steele, 65, is to be sentenced Nov. 14 for four felonies related to a plan to kill his wife with a pipe bomb strapped under her car by a handyman he'd hired as a hitman.
Steele faces at least 30 years in prison; he's been in custody since his arrest in June 2010.
An 11-woman, 1 man jury convicted him May 5 after a two-week trial in Boise.
The motion, drafted by Steele's new lawyer, Wesley Hoyt, who once represented his wife and alleged victim, Cyndi Steele, calls for a new trial based on ineffective counsel and alleged prosecutorial and FBI misconduct, among other issues. (Hoyt and Cyndi Steele are pictured after a jury convicted Edgar in May.)
Hoyt said McAllister failed to subpoena audio expert George Papcun, whom Hoyt says would have provided crucial testimony regarding the authenticity of audio recordings in which Steele discusses the plot to kill his wife with hitman-turned-FBI informant Larry Fairfax. Papcun traveled to Bora Bora with his wife during the trial and was unable to testify.
Coeur d'Alene lawyer Gary Amendola blames McAllister for failing to secure Papcun's presence. He said he believes McAllister didn't properly prepare for the trial.
“His cross examination of witnesses called by the United States was disjointed and random and often did not get to the issue that needed to be addressed,” Amendola wrote. “His examination of witnesses called by the defense was equally weak, disjointed and random. He also paid little attention to directives from Edgar Steele.”
Amendola calls McAllister's closing argument “rambling and ineffective” and said he failed to address key legal issues, including those raised in jury instructions.
McAllistter took over the case from Roger Peven, executive director of the Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington and North Idaho. Hoyt alleged Peven provided ineffective counsel because he was “seriously distracted” by legal proceedings regarding alleged poor management of the office.
“Peven and McAllister stand as proverbial 'bookends' of ineffectiveness,” the motion reads.
Steele has said he is the victim of a government conspiracy to silence him because of his views on politics and race.
Steele describes himself as the “attorney for the damned” and says he defends the politically incorrect. He defended late Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler against the 2000 civil lawsuit from the Southern Poverty law Center that bankrupted the racist group.
The motion alleges non-government organizations like the SPLC and Anti-Defamation League pressured the U.S. Attorney's Office to prosecute Steele. U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson has said no one knew of Steele until Fairfax told the FBI he'd been hired to kill his wife.
The motion also said Steele's mental state was compromised “by his arrest, solitary confinement and sudden withdrawal of prescription pain medications” but his lawyers failed to explore the issue.
Idaho attorney Edgar Steele won’t be representing any Washington clients from his jail cell.
The Washington Supreme Court suspended Steele Wednesday from practicing in the state pending disciplinary proceedings that could result in disbarment.
Steele faces at least 30 years in a federal prison for his May 5 conviction on four charges related to his attempt to have another man kill his wife and mother-in-law.
He is in the federal custody awaiting sentencing in August.
Until he commissioned a bogus hitman, Steele was best known for his unsuccessful defense of Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler.
Steele's lawyer, Robert McAlister, was recently disbarred in Colorado.
The Colorado lawyer who defended Edgar Steele in his murder-for-hire case has been disbarred.
Robert T. McAllister agreed this week to give up his law license after he acknowledged misusing client funds on two occasions unrelated to Steele's case, according to a document signed in Colorado Supreme Court.
According to the document, which is available here, McAllister misused a $5,255.43 check while representing a company in a lawsuit. He also used $100,000 from another client, transferring $80,000 into his own account and $20,000 into an accounted owned by Steamboat Skyglass Lodge, LLC, an entity he controls.
McAllister was chief criminal deputy for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in District of Colorado and the Northern District of Illinois from 1976 to 1983.
Steele was represented by a public defender until supporters raised a reported $120,000 and McAllister took over. McAllister handled most of the questioning during Steele's trial in Boise last month, which ended with jurors convicting Steele on all charges
McAllister and co-counsel Gary Amendola have said they intend to ask for a new trial ; it's unclear how that will proceed now that McAllister is disbarred.
Amendola did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Lawyer Wesley Hoyt, who is working with Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, said he had no information.
“This is the first I've heard of it,” Hoyt said today. “I intend to look into the matter, and that's about all I can say.”
McAllister is described by the publication Law Week as one of Denver's most well-known defense lawyers. He could not be reached for comment.
SANDPOINT, Idaho — A North Idaho attorney convicted by a federal jury for his role in a plot to kill his wife has filed a tort claim against Bonner County, alleging the jail’s policy for providing books to inmates violates his religious freedoms.
Edgar Steele, 65, was convicted on four counts in U.S. District Court in Boise earlier this month in a murder-for-hire plot to kill his wife and mother-in-law last year.
He faces at least 30 years in prison and is being held in the Bonner County Jail pending sentencing scheduled for August. Steele, who once represented the Aryan Nations, is now taking aim at the jail’s book policy, claiming Bibles are the only religious texts delivered to inmates, a limitation he said infringes on his right to religious freedom.
Steele said he is a Taoist, a philosophical and religious tradition that emphasizes compassion, moderation and humility with roots in sixth century China.
In his claim, Steele also contends the jail essentially censors other inmate reading materials because they are passed out by chaplains and heavily influenced by Christian fundamentalist themes.
Edgar Steele's lawyers have 10 reasons he should receive a new trial, including alleged untimely production of Larry Fairfax's notes, errors in admitting the video tapped deposition of his alleged Ukrainian love interest, and newly discovered evidence about the viability of the explosive device.
Federal prosecutors listed the reasons in a document filed last week in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene in response to a sealed document by defense lawyers Robert McAllister of Colorado and Gary Amendola of Coeur d'Alene that talks of intent to seek a new trial.
The defense document was filed a week after a jury in Boise convicted Steele of four felonies related to a plot to kill his wife and mother in law.
According to prosecutors, McAllister and Amendola included the following reasons:
1) Newly discovered evidence regarding Jeff Buck and the viability of the explosive device (from Fairfax's sentencing);
2) Defense was unable to secure the attendance of Dr. George Papcun to testify;
3) Contention that the Court erred in excluding the testimony of Dennis Walsh;
4) Alleged violation of attorney-client communication privilege;
5) Alleged untimeliness of production Fairfax’s “fictional book” notes;
6) Alleged error in allowing cross-examination of Cyndi Steele using the petition for divorce from 2000;
7) Alleged error of admitting the video tape deposition of Tatyana Loginova;
8) Alleged error in sustaining objections to testimony of Bob Stoll, DVM;
9) Allegations of error in sustaining Government objections during cross-examination of Larry Fairfax; and
10) Allegation of error in instructing the jury as to the second question of the jury during deliberations.
The sealed motion filed last week apparently was not an actual motion for anew trial - it asked for more time to file that motion.
Prosecutors objected to that request, saying the fact that the defense was able to list 10 reasons for a new trial seven days after the verdict was proof they didn't need more time.
But U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill gave the defense until June 30 to file final post-trial motions. Steele is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 22; he faces at least 30 years in prison.
A North Idaho attorney convicted last week of hiring his handyman to kill his wife and mother-in-law has requested a new trial.
Lawyers for Edgar J. Steele, 65, filed a motion for a new trial Thursday in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene.
The motion is sealed. Lawyer Robert McAllister, of Colorado, declined to discuss its contents, and Gary Amendola did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Steele faces at least 30 years in prison when he's sentenced in August.
A jury convicted him May 5 of use of interstate commerce to commission murder for hire, use of explosive material to commit a federal felony and tampering with a victim after a week-long trial in Boise.
The hitman-turned FBI informant, Larry Fairfax, was sentenced to 27 months in prison Wednesday for a pipe bomb he attached to Cyndi Steele's SUV.
Cyndi Steele believes her husband was framed because of his defense of clients like the late Richard Butler, founder of the Aryan Nations.
Edgar Steele's lawyers, Robert McAllister and Gary Amendola, obtained selections of Larry Fairfax's handwritten journal notes last week after U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued a ruling he now says was a mistake.
Now prosecutors are investigating whether McAllister and/or Amendola orders by allowing Cyndi Steele to read those notes.
Cyndi Steele read a statement at Fairfax's sentencing Wednesday that Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan says contained information directly from Fairfax's notes.
Whelan said her office will investigate; Winmill said appropriate action will be taken if Steele's lawyer did violate the court order.
Fairfax (pictured) was sentenced to 27 months in prison Wednesday.
Idaho U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson is pictured after the verdict. In back, from left to right, are two unidentified officials, Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan, FBI Special Agent Mike Sotka and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws. Above that photo is a slideshow of photos showing Edgar Steele through the years.
BOISE – A North Idaho lawyer accused of plotting to kill his wife failed to persuade a federal jury that he was the victim of a government conspiracy to silence him.
The U.S. District Court jury of 11 women and one man Thursday convicted Edgar Steele of hiring handyman-turned-FBI-informant Larry Fairfax to kill his wife, Cyndi Steele, and mother-in-law.
Cyndi Steele, pictured with her attorney, Wesley Hoyt. vowed to appeal the verdict. She believes her husband was targeted because of his defense of unpopular clients.
A previous version of the story with more than 20 reader comments is available here.
A no-contact order between the Steeles has been lifted, and they are free to visit in jail whenever visiting hours permit.
A background piece on Steele is available here.
Steele was convicted of the following felonies:
1. Use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission for murder (for directing Larry Fairfax to drive to Oregon to kill his wife.) Punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
2. Aiding and abetting use of explosive material to commit a federal felony (for a pipe bomb Fairfax strapped to Edgar Steele's car at Steele's direction so authorities would think his wife's killer also targeted him.) Punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
3. Aiding and abetting possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence (for the pipe bomb on Cyndi Steele's SUV.) Punishable by a minimum 30 years in prison.
4. Tampering with a victim (for a phone call he made to Cyndi Steele after his arrest). Punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Eleven women and one man will continue deliberating Thursday in the murder-for-hire trial of Edgar J. Steele in U.S. District Court in Boise.
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.
Defense lawyers in the Edgar Steele murder-for-hire trial rested their case this morning without calling Steele to the stand.
Larry Fairfax, the main witness in the Edgar Steele murder-for-hire trial, plans to write a book based on the case called “An Act of Defiance: Built on Lies and Deceit by the FBI.”
A defense expert who says he found anomalies in FBI recordings of murder-for-hire suspect Edgar Steele will not be able to testify remotely from his tropical vacation, a judge ruled this morning.
A federal judge is reviewing Larry Fairfax's handwritten notes to determine if defense lawyers in Edgar Steele's murder-for-hire case are entitled to the material.
Judge B. Lynn Winmill said this morning that he erred when he ordered prosecutors to obtain the 238 pages of notes last week.
Prosecutors had objected to Winmill's request, saying they are not evidence under federal case law. Winmill now says he made a mistake.
But because Winmill forced prosecutors to obtain the notes, Steele's lawyer, Robert McAllister, argued they needed to be provided to the defense.
Winmill said today that he'll review the notes and give the defense relevant material. He said “relevant” will be defined broadly. Court is on an extended break while Winmill looks at the notes.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan agreed that because the material was now with the prosecution because of Winmill's order, the notes were subject to review.
“It's not something I want to see, but it's not something we can undo,” she said.
Whelan said the notes contain Fairfax's thoughts on the case, his lawyer, his love for his wife and children, his concerns about how they'll survive financially and other personal matters.
Fairfax's lawyer, John Miller, emphasized that no one has been subpoenaed for the material. He said the defense mentioning the book in court without having even seen it as part of a tactic.
Miller said the notes are “really almost a diary.”
“It's his daily rantings and ravings from the time he was arrested,” Miller said.
He said the notes contain private thoughts, including prayers and opinions on Miller, Whelan and other court officials. “It should not have been reviewed by anyone,” Miller said.
McAllister said he didn't subpoena the notes before trial because he didn't know they existed until Fairfax referenced them in cross examination last week.
“It's ironic that the government is using the writings of my client while in jail while attempting to convict him, then refusing to provide to me the writings of the main witness,” McAllister said.
McAllister said Fairfax's notes about the case could be crucial to Steele's defense.
“I can't think of better material for impeachment than that,” he said.
In what defense lawyer Robert McAllister said was “great news,” a man hired by the defense to refute the authenticity of the FBI recordings in the Edgar Steele case will be allowed to testify.