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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Edgar Steele

Steele’s daughter testifies in his defense

Edgar Steele's 20-year-old daughter told jurors today that she doesn't believe the recording of her father discussing a plot to kill her mother is authentic.

Kesley Steele, a student at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, said she recognizes her father's voice on parts of the recording but not others.
 
“The main thing that I noticed throughout it is it's just not the way that he talks,” she said.
 
She said she listened to the recordings several times and knows her mother “wanted to come up with her own conclusion…same with my brother and sister and myself.”
 
Steele said she “grew up” in the barn where Steele and Larry Fairfax reportedly had the conversation on the recording and said she'd never before heard a train whistle. Prosecutors provided phone records that show a train passes within a few miles of the area once per evening.
 
Steele said she knew of her father's work on the Russian bride scam but didn't talk about the details with him.
 
“Getting into more details, it was not a huge common interest at the time,” she said. 
 
She said the work was also a joke around the house.
 
Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan asked Kelsey Steele if it was true she didn't want to believe that her father wanted her mother killed.
 
“Of cousre I don't want to, and I don't,” Steele replied.
 
 Kesley Steele sent her father books in jail, at first using her money or her mother's but soon using “donations from people who believed in my dad, Steele said under cross examination.
 
Whelan said Kelsey sometimes sent books and magazines to her father that he didn't want, and he was sure to let her know she'd screwed up.
 
“He would let me know if I messed up,” Kelsey Steele said.
 
Also testifying today was a Sandpoint man who arrived at Edgar Steele's home for a trip to Spokane the day of Steele's arrest. Allen Banks told jurors he was familiar with the defendant's research into the Russian mail order bride scandal.
 
Banks said he was visiting the Steele home once when “Ed called me over to the computer to see his Russian girlfriends.”
 
Banks said Cyndi Steele was present, and they looked at photos of about five or six Ukrainian women “who had been contacted as part of a legal case.”
 
The three laughed together as they discussed the case, Banks said.
Banks said Steele was weak and disoriented after medical treatment for an aneurysm. He saw Steele led out of his Talache Road home in handcuffs June 11.
 
“He was handcuffed with his hands behind his back, and his face looked puffy,” Banks said.
 
He said he was surprised by the arrest
 
“Definitely, because it's completely out of character,” Banks said.
 
But prosecutors pointed out that Banks said Steele's health had improved by the day of his arrest. They also noted that Steele called Banks to set up the appointment June 9, which matches what he told Fairfax about setting up an alibi.
 
Also testifying for the defense today was Sandpoint veterinarian Robert Stoll, who said the allegations against Steele are “completely out of character.”
 
“Edgar is a sweet, kind man,” Stoll said. He has known the Steeles for years and testified briefly about the couple's peaceful relationship. 
 
Cyndi Steele's best friend, Billie Elizabeth Cochran, also told jurors that she never witnessed or heard of spousal abuse in the 10 years she's known the couple. Cyndi Steele stayed at her home after her husband's arrest because she was afraid to stay at their home.

Old friend of Steele’s describes shock

A longtime friend of Edgar Steele told jurors that he was “shocked” when he learned of Steele's arrest and never saw Steele threaten or harm anyone in the more than 40 years he's known him.

Jeff Miller, a partner with George's Cyclotron Inc., who also works with Hendry Ranch Wines in Napa Valley, Calif., said he met Steele through a mutual friend in the late 1960s or early 1970s in the San Francisco area.

Their families socialized, and Steele's children still refer to Miller as “Uncle Jeff,” he told jurors. Miller said he met Cyndi Steele a year or two before she married Edgar, and that he's never known Steele to threaten or harm his wife or children.

“Ed is a very strict parent, as am I. So sometimes you come down on the kids. But that's our job,” Miller said.

He said he learned of Steele's arrest when Steele's son, Rex, called him.

“It was quite a shock,” Miller said. Miller said he didn't know of the Steeles' divorce petition in 2000 until Sunday night.

Under cross examination by prosecutors, Miller acknowledged that he didn't know of the Steeles' marriage problems and that Edgar Steele never confided to him that he was looking for women on Match.com.

Miller said Steele once tried to enlist his help with research into the Russian bride scam. He said Steele called and asked him to go to a website and find a particular person, and that it would cost him “a couple hundred dollars.”

But Miller's wife told him it wasn't a good idea. “I called him back that same day and told him my wife wouldn't let me do it,” Miller said.

Also testifying this morning was a Sagle, Idaho, man who traveled with Fairfax to check on a pipe bomb attached to Cyndi Steele's SUV.

James Maher, Fairfax's cousin, told jurors today that he spent about 10 seconds trying to see if the device was still there.

Maher said he couldn't get under the 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor because neighbors near the Oregon City, Ore., home of Steele's mother-in-law were watching.

Maher said he wanted to see if the pipe bomb was gone “because I thought Cyndi Steele was a really nice lady.”

Maher admitted that Fairfax once said something about appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show. “That was like an over-the-top thing,” Maher said. “But yeah, I thought it might work out for him; I don't know.”

But, Maher added, “there was no braggery involved.”

He said Fairfax said he couldn't check himself because Cyndi Steele might see him. “Then the jig would be up,” Maher said.

Steele jurors hear from Ukrainian woman

Edgar Steele told a 25-year-old Ukrainian woman after his arrest on murder-for-hire charges that the Anti-Defamation League had manufactured a recording of him plotting to kill his wife using a collection of secret recordings by Larry Fairfax and thousands of hours of online audio files. 

Steele wrote in a letter to Tatyana Loginova that the case against him began when Fairfax stole $45,000 in silver, though prosecutors have shown jurors that Steele cashed in about that same amount of silver a couple months before his arrest.

“This has been a huge shock to me but not really a surprise; they have been after me for a long time because of my outspoken criticism” of the federal government and U.S. power brokers, Steele wrote Loginova.

FBI Special Agent Brent Smith, who is based in the Ukraine, read from the letter this morning in U.S. District Court in Boise, the fourth day of testimony in Steele's murder-for-hire trial.

Smith helped with Loginova's deposition in the Ukraine. Loginova declined to travel to the United States to testify, and because she is not a U.S. citizen, she could not be forced to appear.

In a deposition taped in early March, Loginova, through a  translator, said she met Steele through an online dating website, exchanged emails and learned about his personal life.

“Did he ever tell you if he had kids?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan asked.

“Yes, he did. They told me that they don't live with him though. He told me that he lives alone,” Loginova said through a  translator.

Steele wrote that Loginova could find work, “take care of our babies, make love to me, whatever would make you happy.”

He said he was trying to get his children to mail her a package with a teddy bear, map of the area and other gifts.

“I begin to suspect that my ex may be behind all of this,” Steele writes. “She knows that you are very special to me and I know that's why she has not sent your box as she promised me she would do.”

Loginova said Steele planned to visit Ukraine in August 2010. 

She said the two began talking over Skype in May or early June.

Under cross examination, defense lawyer Gary Amendola emphasized that Loginova doesn't actually know if  Steele is the one who wrote the letter.

Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, testified last week that her husband was corresponding with Loginova and other women as part of his research into the Russian mail order bride scam.

The prosecution has rested. Judge Winmill has denied a defense motion to dismiss the charges against Steele.

The defense will begin presenting its case shortly. Steele's wife and daughter have attended each day of the trial. Hayden resident Deon Masker, wife of white supremacist Richard Masker, is at the trial for the first time today.

Experts dispute Fairfax’s claim re: bomb

This pipe bomb was attached to Cyndi Steele's car June 15 when she went to a Coeur d'Alene auto shop for a routine oil change. The photo was shown to jurors today in Edgar Steele's murder-for-hire trial.

BOISE - A Spokane County bomb expert said at Edgar Steele's murder-for-hire trial today that the pipe bomb attached to Cyndi Steele's SUV last June was capable of exploding and unlike any device he's seen.
 
“It's the largest pipe bomb that I've dealt with,” said Sgt. Mike Kittilstved, head of the Spokane County bomb squad, which dismantled the device.
 
Though hitman-turned-informant Larry Fairfax has said he rigged the bomb so it wouldn't explode, Kittilstved and other experts said that's wasn't the case.
 
Kittilstved said the device contained “a significant amount” of powder.
 
“Definitely enough to ignite the device,” he said.
 
Fairfax has said he cut the fuse in several places to prevent it from burning through.
 
But Agent Brennan Phillips, an explosives expert for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said the black tape on the device would still burn in place of the fuse.
 
“In fact, the tape will burn a little bit faster,” he said.
 
Phillips said the construction of the device showed him that “certainly there's a desire to make sure this thing works,” he said.
 
The bomb experts were today's last witnesses. 
 
The prosecution is expected to rest Monday after testimony from Steele's alleged European love interest.

Phone records back up Steele recordings

BOISE - Edgar Steele's lawyers have questioned the reliability of recordings that show their client discussing the plot to kill his wife with alleged hitman-turned-FBI-informant Larry Fairfax.

Prosecutors used phone records provided by the defense to poke a hole in that claim this morning.
 
Steele told his wife, Cyndi Steele, after his arrest that he expected investigators to provide a manufactured recording that combined several conversations into one.
 
In the recordings, which jurors listened to Wednesday, Fairfax calls Steele as he's driving to his Sagle-area home. 
 
A time-stamped record of that phone call is in records shown to jurors today by the defense. Lawyers were showing jurors the numerous and lengthy phone calls between the Steeles.
 
Cyndi Steele acknowledged the phone record but emphasized that she firmly believes her husband is innocent.
 
Steele's lawyer Robert McAllister mentioned his client's legal work with the Aryan Nations today while cross examining Cyndi Steele. 
 
Prosecutors objected, saying it isn't relevant, but Judge B. Lynn Winmill allowed the testimony. 
 
Cyndi Steele agreed with defense lawyer Robert McAllister that her husband had represented unpopular causes, including Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations and said her family has had previous threats made on their lives.
 
Steele has said she believes her husband was framed by the federal government.
 
Cyndi Steele also said she was helping her husband with his research into the Russian mail order bride scam. She agreed with McAllister that the emails her husband sent to the women amounted to cyber-space fantasy.
 
She agreed that Edgar is an “excellent writer” who was very capable of writing emails and sounding like “a love-sick teenager.”
 
She said Edgar never threatened her or her mother and recently helped with her mother's mortgage before his arrest.
 
She said Edgar told her to go to Oregon to help her mother.
 
“He never objected,” she said. “He was always sad to see me go, but he never objected.”
 
Cyndi Steele's testimony has ended. 
 
Kevin Mitchell, who owns CoinNuts in Coeur d'Alene, testified briefly, telling jurors how he'd cashed in a large amount of silver for Edgar Steele in April. 
 
Josh Young, who was working at the Quik Lube in Coeur d'Alene when he spotted the pipe bomb under Cyndi's car, also briefly testified.
 
Mark Fox of the Spokane County Sheriff's Office bomb squad will continue testifying after the afternoon break. He helped dismantle the pipe bomb.

Edgar sent 14k+ emails to other women

BOISE - Jurors this morning saw emails Edgar Steele sent to a 25-year-old European woman with whom prosecutors say he was seeking an intimate relationship. The messages were among more than 14,000 Steele sent through a Ukrainian online dating website in the months before his arrest last June.

Steele told Tatyana Loginova he was looking for “his second half, a girl he couldn't live without,” and that he was not in love with his wife.
 
Edgar Steele told her he had “produced the greatest children in the world, but I deserve more. I will never have another American woman, never again,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan said.
 
In testimony this morning in U.S. District Court in Boise, Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, said the correspondence was simply part of his research into the Russian mail order bride scam.
 
She said the activity differed from her husband's inquires into online dating more than 10 years ago, which led to a divorce petition by Cyndi Steele in 2000. The couple reconciled.
 
Cyndi Steele said her husband, who is on trial for an alleged murder plot against her, said she knew of the correspondence.
 
“He told me about it because he wanted to discuss it with me, and how I felt about it…so I would know it was not like before,” Cyndi Steele said. “And that's exactly what I did know, it was not like 2000, and this was nothing but research trying to bring down the bride scam.”
 
Whelan said she reviewed emails with Cyndi Steele in her office last month to avoid surprising and embarrassing her at trial.
 
But, Cyndi Steele said today, “I knew what they were before I went in…I wasn't going to be embarrassed because I know about them.”
 
But Edgar Steele could have made up any identity and told the women anything to gain information, Whelan said. Instead, he described his life to Loginova, sent her pictures of his home and the family's newborn kittens and even mentioned the couple 's, Rex.
 
In one email, Edgar Steele says he's worried Rex's mother will be at the home while he's visiting for spring break.
 
Cyndi Steele told jurors she wasn't concerned.
 
“He was setting up a ruse the same way the FBI agents did with my husband's arrest,” she said.
 
Jurors were shown photos of  Loginova from her online profile.
 
“That looks like one of the many pictures of girls that he showed me,” Cyndi Steele said of the images. “All of the girls I saw were pretty like this and very similar in body structure.”
 
Whelan also focused on Cyndi Steele's theft report regarding $45,000 in silver. She reported the theft in September, more than two months after her husband's arrest.
 
Whelan mentioned that Edgar Steele had called his son, Rex, in July and also asked him to report the theft, telling him that it was “very important”
 
“You were trying to establish this idea that your husband told you that Larry Fairfax may have stolen from you to help your husband's defense,” Whelan said.
 
“I based my investigation on things that my husband had told me, and then I investigated,” Steele replied.
 
Whelan said Edgar Steele viewed his wife's dream - her horse farm - as “a symbol of wasted money.”
 
“He knew in reality it was not a money maker, but he knew it was my dream and supported it,” Cyndi Steele said.

Jurors hear Steele’s jail phone call to wife

BOISE - “This phone call is protected under husband-wife privilege, even if they're recording it, they can't use it for any purpose.”

Edgar Steele said that to his wife, Cyndi, in a June phone call played for jurors today in his murder-for-hire case in U.S. District Court in Boise. The call led to a victim tampering charge against him.

Only a portion of the call had been released before today. The entire phone call was played for the 13 women and 1 man hearing the case. Two of the women are alternates. 
 
In the call, Cyndi Steele says she has a “small doubt” because of an earlier incident. 
 
“You have not been yourself, and you told me to get out of your life and get out of the way,” she said. Steele said he was in the hospital on drugs.
 
“You've got to know me better than this,” he said.
 
“Sweetie, I love you. I love you; you've got to believe me,” he continued. “If I were to get rid of you, I would just walk away from you. I would never hurt you. Twenty-five years we spent together, you should know that by now.”
 
Fairfax testified earlier today that Steele rejected his suggestion of divorce because he said his wife wanted too much when she petitioned for divorce in 2000. Prosecutors submitted that divorce petition as evidence; in it, Cyndi Steele asks for $1,400 a month in child support as well as alimony payments to cover counseling.
 
In the June phone call, Steele acknowledges he feared she may be seeing another man.
 
“The last few months you seemed distant, and you sure haven't been around, and I've missed you terribly, and I did wonder if you had someone else,”he said.
 
Cyndi Steele tells her husband that she “told you I was giving you six months. That was the idea, that I needed you to heal before we had any talks.”
 
She testified today that she was not seeking a divorce.
 
Steele told his wife the recording she was to listen to would be “a very high-class production. I expect this to be very convincing, and it's total fucking bulls**t.
 
“This is going to be Mission Impossible-level convincing,” he continued. He said the recording likely would be collection of recordings combined into one incriminating phone call. (Defense lawyers wanted two people to testify regarding flaws they found in the recordings, but Judge Lynn Winmill declined; neither expert had supported their findings. One of the experts said he wouldn’t describe the glitches as “suspicious,” because a variety of factors could have caused them.)
 
Cyndi Steele asks if it's possible that local FBI agents are “oblivious” to the plot.
 
“Yes, it's likely. In fact, it's absolutely likely,” Edgar Steele said. “Most of the FBI agents are good people doing a good job. They're being used. They wouldn't know the difference if they were handed this kind of tape.”
 
He reminds his wife, “If I go to prison, it will only be because of what you tell them tomorrow.”

Cyndi says she knew of Edgar’s women

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Edgar Steele’s call to his son
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Edgar Steele’s call to his wife

These are portions of phone calls from the Kootenai County Jail that were played for jurors today in the murder-for-hire trial of Edgar Steele.

BOISE - Cyndi Steele testified today that she knew her husband was talking to European women online but said the communication was part of his research into Russian mail order brides.

She said the two often sat in his home office reading the correspondence from the women. “We would end up laughing together, because we didn't believe it was always the pretty girl behind the writings,” she testified today, the second day of testimony in Edgar Steele's murder-for-hire trial. “It could be a man as far as we knew.”
 
Cyndi Steele (pictured at a press conference last October) said she knew Edgar told the women he was divorced and wanted to have babies with them, though she admitted she didn't know he'd sent them pictures of their Talache Road home.
 
“I gave him the go ahead because I trusted him,” she said. “He would let me read anything I wanted; I knew what he was sending…I knew all about it, and I knew it was a case, and I knew he saw a book in it.”
 
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan emphasized that Cyndi Steele didn't read every email.
 
“He was lying to you, Cyndi,”  Whelan said. 
 
Cyndi Steele, the victim of the alleged murder plot, said she knew Edgar wrote to one of the women, Tatayna Loginova, from the jail confessing his love. Whelan questioned why he would continue to lie for research purposes while jailed on such serious federal charges.
 
Steele's testimony was interrupted repeatedly as prosecutors called for her responses to be stricken because they didn't address the questions. The final dispute arose just before scheduled adjournment at 2:30 .m., so attorneys for both sides will meet with Judge B. Lynn Winmill at 8:15 a.m. Friday to discuss. Cyndi Steele's testimony is expected to continue at 8:30 a.m.
 
Much of today's testimony focused on Edgar her husband's correspondence with other women and the couple's past marriage problems.
 
Steele and her mother owned a dance studio in San Francisco when her mother was injured in a car crash. Someone recommended they seek counsel from a law office. Edgar Steele had recently been hired there. The Steeles married in 1985. 
 
But by the late 1990s, Edgar Steele had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and his wife was experiencing “issues” that kept them apart, according to testimony. Cyndi Steele briefly sought a divorce in 2000 after creating a fake Match.com profile to see if Edgar, who advertised himself as single, would respond.
 
Whelan asked Cyndi Steele if the marriage was saved because Edgar Steele said he “merely wanted to try on other women but had decided that you were the one for him.”
 
“That's a very small summary of it, but I'd say yes,” Cyndi Steele said.
 
“Because he was so unhappy, he was looking to see if our home life was really what he wanted or if there was something better,” she continued. “I think he was really questioning his life about everything.”
 
Whelan then asked about this past year, when Cyndi was splitting her time between Edgar's health problems in North Idaho and her mother's health problems in Oregon.
 
“It was very hard, because I need to be in both places,” she said. “I had to go where the most emergency was…I had to weigh it, and it was hard to weigh it because I had two people who I very much loved who need me.”
 
“I can understand why he felt I was maybe neglecting him,” Cyndi said of Edgar. “I hadn't been getting enough of him, either.” 
 
But she emphasized that the situation was “much different” than the problems that provoked the divorce petition 11 years ago.
 
Aftrer her husband's arrest, Cyndi Steele reported $45,000 in silver missing from the home and listed FBI informant Larry Fairfax as the suspect.
 
Defense lawyers say Fairfax set up Edgar to cover up his theft of silver from the Steeles.
 
But Whelan said today that Edgar had cashed about that same amount in silver last April. 
Cyndi said she was aware of that and factored it in when counting their silver.
 
Jurors heard phone calls Edgar Steele made to Cyndi and their son, Rex, from the Kootenai County Jail after his arrest that led to tampering with a witness charges.
 
Steele told his wife he feared she was seeing someone else.
 
“I'm only suffering because I love you and I'm not getting enough of you,” he said.
 
He also urged her to stand “like a rhinoceros in the road” and tell authorities the voice on the recordings with Fairfax “was not my husband's voice.” 
 
Cyndi Steele said she doesn't believe her husband was trying to unduly influence her in the call.
 
“He was trying to tell me he was innocent, and that's what he was standing up for,” Cyndi Steele said. “He never asked me to lie, and he knows I would be upset if he wrongly went to prison.”
 
In the phone call, Cyndi told Edgar that she rmembered him telling her to get out of his life after his surgery. Edgar said he made the comment while heavily medicated; Cyndi testified today that he didn't mean the comment.
 
“i don't count that as he wanted a divorce; he was extremely sick,” she said 

Cop details Steele’s reax to wife’s death

BOISE - Idaho State Police Trooper Jess Spike has notified families of about two dozen deaths in his career.

Never has he seen a reaction as stoic as that of Edgar Steele at his Sagle-area home last June when Spike told him his wife, Cyndi Steele, had died in a car crash after being run off the road near Portland, Ore., Spike testified today. 
 
“It was flat, paused, almost contrived. It was as if he was trying to retrieve something in an archive and come up with what the answer was. It wasn't natural,” Spike said. “He kind of choked up. It appeared as though he was trying to develop tears, and no tears developed.” 
 
Investigators then told Steele his wife had been run off the road but the assailant had crashed and was hospitalized, and that the man was “somewhat conscious” and detectives “were trying to put the pieces together,” Spike said.
 
“I think that was the first point that I noticed a change in his demeanor. He seemed somewhat surprised at that point in time, that what he had expected had kind of gotten away from him, and it wasn't something he'd planned for,” Spike said. “It was more genuine in reaction.”
 
FBI Special Agent Mike Sotka asked Steele if he knew Larry Fairfax. Steele replied that he did. 
 
Sotka asked if Steele suspected his wife might be having an affair. 
 
“I do remember him saying, 'well, she is over there a lot,'” Spike said. 
 
Sotka continued to push Steele to see if he would repeat what he'd promised Fairfax he would say in the recorded conversation.
 
 “He just kind of took it hook line and sinker and just went with it,” Spike said. “I remember him patting his stomach implying that (Fairfax) was heavy set and that he didn't think Mrs. Steele would go for someone like that.”
 
According to a recording played for jurors Tuesday, Steele told Fairfax he would tell investigators about a suspected affair if Fairfax was arrested.
 
 “Like in ‘Mission: Impossible,’ I will disavow your existence,” Steele said, according to the recording. “… There won’t be anything I can do except throw you to the … wolves.”
 
Steele had also said he planned a lunch appointment with a friend as part of his alibi. Steele's friend Allen Banks showed up the day at of his arrest for a meeting with Steele, investigators said.
 
When investigators told Steele his mother-in-law had been shot, Spike said the lawyer's reaction was simply “F**k me.”
 
“It was almost, I'm searching for the word, surprise and disbelief?” Spike said.
 
Steele mentioned organizations that may have been out to get him and his family, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, Spike said.
 
Then Sotka took a phone call and told Steele he'd just been informed that Fairfax told investigators “to ask Mr. Steele what was going on, that he could answer all of the questions that he had.”
 
Spike said Steele “had no reaction whatsoever.”
 
That's when investigators told him his wife wasn't actually dead and that he was under arrest for hiring Fairfax to kill her, Spike said.
 
Fairfax testified Wednesday that Steele had a list of about 12 others he wanted killed, too. He finished testifying this morning and denied arranging the plot to set up Steele. 
 
Defense lawyer Robert McAllister emphasized that Steele never confessed to being involved in the plot.
 
“The whole idea was to get him to crack, to make some kind of omission, and he never did,” McAlliser said of Spike's false death notification.
 
But Spike said investigators wanted to see if Steele would do what he told Fairfax he would.
 
From mailing items at the Post Office to transporting lumber and arranging a lunch appointment, “there was just a number of things that all lined up,” Spike said.
 
“This 'ruse' as the defense counsel put it was to basically cross those ts and dot those i's so we could put two and two together,” Spike said.
 
Along with Spike, this morning's witnesses included an FBI agent in Portland who notified Cyndi Steele of the alleged plot, and a Coeur d'Alene FBI agent who led the search of Steele's Talache Road home the day of his arrest. Cyndi Steele could testify this afternoon.

Larry Fairfax says he’s writing a book

The main witness against Edgar Steele is writing a book he says is fiction and “may have” said he hopes to be on the Oprah show. 

Larry Fairfax (left) admitted that under cross examination this morning in U.S. District Court in Boise, the second day of testimony in Steele's murder-for-hire trial.

Steele's defense lawyer, Robert McAllister, said Bonner County Jail inmate Daryl Hollingsworth (right) was asked by Fairfax “if he could design the cover for your book.”

“You kept it a secret from the FBI, secret from the government and secret from the defense, but you told Daryl Hollingsworth about it?” McAlliser said.

Fairfax said no one but Hollingsworth had inquired. He said Hollingsworth saw him writing in jail one day and asked what he was doing.

McAllister said Fairfax also told his cousin he planned to make himself out to be the hero in the book, but Fairfax denied that. McAllister also said Hollingsworth says Fairfax claimed he'd been paid to set up Steele.

Fairfax said Hollingsworth, who is in jail for stabbing someone in Sandpoint, had a reputation as a liar. 

Fairfax has said he was paid $10,000 in silver coins as a down payment for the murders. He said he gathered the coins from a desk drawer in Steele's garage, but McAllister implied that Fairfax actually stole it.

McAllister emphasized that Fairfax knew where the Steeles hid their silver and could “easily” remove it, but Fairfax said that wasn't true.

Cyndi Steele had filed a theft report regarding $45,000 in silver from their home. Fairfax was listed as the suspect, McAllister said. He denied taking the coins during testimony this morning.

Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan, Fairfax said the theft report was not filed until after Steele was arrested.

Fairfax said the stash spots he helped construct at Steele's home were for “stashing weapons when the economy collapsed and everyone was rioting.” He said the spots were covered in drywall and not easily accessible.

McAllister questioned Fairfax about his bankruptcy filing and desire for money. He's said in his opening statement that Fairfax set up Steele to cover up his theft of silver.

“How many times do you think you lied to Edgar Steele?” McAllister asked.

“Maybe twice,” Fairfax replied.

“What were those lies?” McAllister said.

“That I would kill his wife…(and) that I would kill his mother-in-law,” Fairfax replied.

McAllister focused on statements Fairfax reportedly made regarding coming up with “a big lie.”

Fairfax said that comment was in regards to a story he told his wife about why he was traveling to Portland. (Fairfax says he went there under FBI surveillance to make Steele believe he was following through with the murders.)

Fairfax's testimony just ended.

Fairfax says Steele rejected divorce idea

BOISE - When Larry Fairfax spoke with Edgar Steele about a plot to kill Steele's wife, he asked the North Idaho lawyer why he didn't divorce his wife instead.

“He said the last time he was going to get a divorce form her she was going to take too much, and we didn't want to part with all his possession and money,” Fairfax said today in U.S. District Court in Boise.
 
According to court records, Cyndi Steele filed for divorce in June 2000, alleging her husband “misrepresented his marital status and eligibility” in online dating profiles “with the sole intention of meeting women” in San Mateo, where he maintained a law office. The case was dismissed two months later and the couple remained married.
 
Now prosecutors allege Edgar Steele wanted his wife killed because he believed she was having an affair and because he was interested in a young woman in Europe.
 
Fairfax, the alleged hitman-turned-FBI informant, testified this morning that Steele had said “he hired a private investigator to follow his wife around and that she was having an affair with an old high school flame in Portland.”
 
Fairfax also said Steele was planning a 30-day trip to Europe.
 
Fairfax said he was working at Big Al's in Post Falls when an FBI agent called him on June 15 after the pipe bomb was found under Cyndi Steele's car. 
 
He's been in custody since and is to be sentenced after the trial for two federal firearms charges.

Jurors hear Fairfax-Steele recordings

In this sketch by Ward Hooper, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws is shown at the podium during the trial of Edgar J. Steele today. Steele is shown at right.

BOISE - Larry Fairfax told jurors in the Edgar Steele murder-for-hire trial that though he accepted money from Steele, he never intended to kill anyone and told the FBI about the plot because he feared retribution.

“Mr. Steele was getting agitated, and he said if i didn't take care of the job he would find someone else to do the job, and me,” Fairfax said.
 
Fairfax, who lived near Steele in Sagle, Idaho, testified today in U.S. District Court in Boise, where he is being housed at the Ada County Jail for the trial.
 
Fairfax contacted lawyer Jim Michaud, and the two arranged a meeting with federal authorities. The FBI gave Fairfax a recording device, and he secretly taped two conversations with Steele at his Talache Road home, east of Sagle near Shepherd Lake.
 
Jurors heard recordings of those conversations this afternoon.
 
Steele's lawyers have questioned the authenticity of the tapes.  His supporters, including his wife, believe Steele has been framed by the government.
 
In the first conversation, on June, 9, Steele is heard agreeing to give Fairfax a $400 “advance” to pay for his trip to Oregon City, where Cyndi Steele was visiting her mother.
 
Steele tells Fairfax “I'll take it out of your f**king hide; you gotta get this job done.” He said a car crash could trigger an insurance policy payment.
 
“You've got a big payday riding on this one. I've set it up that way on purpose,” Steele says
 
Steele acknowledges that the death investigation could trace back to him.
 
“We'll be sharing a cell together,” Steele said.
 
But he said he hadn't had second thoughts.
 
“The only second thought I had is ever talking to you,” Steele told Fairfax.
 
Steele told Fairfax he and a friend were to travel to Spokane the next day - the day his wife was to be killed - to go to a lumber yard and to eat lunch. The trip was part of an alibi Steele planned, according to the conversation. 
 
“I'll make myself memorable at whatever restaurant we go to,” Steele said.
 
He also said he planned to mail something in Spokane and get a receipt, then go to Sandpoint that afternoon.
 
He said he would go to the bank and post office in Sandpoint for “something that creates a record with a time stamp” and would say something memorable to the clerk.
 
But, the self-proclaimed “lawyer for the damned” said, “I always say memorable things. If I didn't say anything memorable, that would be unusual.”
 
Steele told Fairfax he anticipated a visit from authorities but wasn't sure if they'd be there to arrest him or simply notify him of his wife's death.
 
“I hope to God I can answer the door and seem normal,” Steele said.
 
He said if Fairfax was to get caught, he would tell the police that Fairfax was possibly in love with his wife and killed her because she wouldn't sleep with him.
 
“Like in Mission Impossible, I will disavow your existence,” Steele said. “…There won't be anything i can do except throw you to the f**king wolves.”
 
In testimony, Fairfax said Steele was very angry with him one day and suspected he'd been in his home without Steele's permission.
 
Steele told him if he went in the house again “he would shoot me” and put his children to work, Fairfax told jurors.
 
That touches on a key allegation by the defense - that Fairfax had stolen silver from the Steeles and set up the murder plot probe to cover up the theft.
 
Court is adjourned for the day. Fairfax's testimony will continue Thursday at 8:30 a.m., Boise time.

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.

Defense: Fairfax stole silver, set up Steele

BOISE - The murder-for-hire case against Edgar Steele is really the work of financially strapped man desperate to cover up his theft of silver from Steele's home, defense lawyer Robert McAllister said this morning.

“This case is as much about a man named Larry Fairfax as it is about Edgar Steele,” McAllister said in his opening statement. 
 
“You will see no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Steele ever made an explosive device, ever touched an explosive device, ever approved of an explosive device or ever told Larry Fairfax to make an explosive device,” McAllister said.
 
McAllister described Steele as a lawyer, father and “established author or writer” who was living “the good life of retirement” in Sagle after “a career of representing clients, some of whom were very unpopular.”
 
“First question,” McAllister said, “why would Edgar Steele want to kill his wife and mother-in-law, and, if he did, why would he ask somebody like Larry Fairfax to do it?” 
 
Steele nearly died and underwent surgery in late 2009. Cyndi Steele took care of him when he returned home. She split her time between Sagle and Oregon City, where her mother was battling cancer, McAllister said.
 
The Steeles talked on the phone nearly every day.
 
“They would literally spend 45 minutes at a time talking about each other and talking about the problems that faced their lives,” McAllister said.
 
At that same time, unbeknownst to the Steeles, Fairfax was cashing in silver he'd stolen from them, McAllister said.
Fairfax was a handy man who had worked for the Steeles for about 10 years. He'd gained their trust and knew where their silver  - their life savings - was stored.
 
The Steeles “didn't really trust banks or the economy or the way things were going, so they put their life savings in silver and they kept it in their house, and they trusted Larry Fairfax to know where the silver was located,” McAllister said. He said evidence will show “that (Fairfax is) a man desperate for money, and he's a man who has admitted to being a liar. He's a man who has filed for bankruptcy, and he's a man who would do anything for money.”
 
Fairfax claims the pipe bomb he affixed to Cyndi Steele's car was rigged so it couldn't explode.  But he never mentioned the device when he first approached the FBI about the alleged murder plot.
 
“He never tells them that Cyndi Steele is driving hundreds of miles back and forth from Oregon City with this device on her car,” McAllister said.
 
Experts are expected to testify that, despite Fairfax's claims, the device was capable of exploding.
 
Fairfax, McAllister said, “didn't tell the whole truth, he didn't tell nothing but the truth. The evidence will show, and he admits it, he lied to the law enforcement agencies.”
 
McAllister said Edgar Steele had no reason to want his wife dead.
 
He said the women Steele was talking to online were part of his research for a book on human trafficking. Jurors will read letters and emails sent by Steele that “are not the type of letter written by a murderer, or someone who wanted to attempt a murder,” McAllister said.
 
McAllister said Fairfax told FBI agents “I can set up Edgar Steele; I can show you how he told me to do this” when he first approached them June 8.
 
Fairfax secretly recorded a conversation with Steele the next day. Steele was arrested June 11 and has been in federal custody since.
 
Fairfax also is in custody on federal firearms charges related to the pipe bomb on Cyndi Steele's car. He's to be sentenced after Steele's trial.
 
“This is a case built on evidence, and I think you will see before the case is concluded, that all the evidence points back to Larry Fairfax,” McAllister said. “Larry Fairfax is at the center of this case. You will see from the evidence - it's undisputed - that this is all his doing.”
 
FBI Special Agent Mike Sotka was the first witness to testify.
 
Court is on an hour break right now; testimony will continue at 11:35 a.m., Boise time.

Prosecutors: Case against Steele ‘simple’

BOISE - Prosecutors say the case against Edgar Steele is simple.

“It's the story of a man who wanted to murder his wife, hired somebody else to do it, and fortunately, they didn't succeed,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws said in his opening statement this morning.
 
Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, often traveled to Oregon City, Ore., to visit her mother. Steele was recovering from a major surgery in December 2009 and often home alone.
 
“The evidence is going to show that he was angry; the evidence is going to show that he resented Cyndi,” Haws said. “He suspected she had a boyfriend.”
 
Today is Edgar and Cyndi Steele's 26th wedding anniversary, says Steele's lawyer, Robert McAllister.

The Sagle, Idaho, lawyer accused of hiring a man to kill his wife was also developing “some interest in some young Russian women” and often chatted with them online, Haws said.
 
One woman, Tatyana Loginova, will testify via video, Haws said. Steele wanted his wife murdered so he could spend more time with Loginova, prosecutors say.
 
“This case involves the intersection of two lives: the life of Larry Fairfax and the life of Edgar Steele,” Haws said. “…Edgar Steele, who had money, but he couldn't bring himself to kill wife, and really didn't know how to do things with hands. And you had Larry Fairfax, who knew who to do things with his hands, but he didn't have any money.”
 
In a recorded conversation that will be played for jurors, Haws says Steele tells Fairfax that if investigators trace the murder back to Steele, “we'll be sharing a cell together.”
 
Fairfax asks if Steele has second thoughts.
 
“Mr. Steele says, 'have you seen a second thought in me yet?'” Haws said. Steele also tells Fairfax of a television show he saw in which a woman was paralyzed in a car crash and her husband took care of her for the rest of her life. Steele is adamant that that can't happen, Haws said.
 
“If I abandoned her at that point, my kids would hate me forever. This could actually become a much worse situation than it is…Do not leave me like that,” Haws described Steele as saying.
 
Haws said Steele continues, “I'm pissed off at Cyndi, but I don't want her to suffer, and I don't want her to realize, as the lights are going out, what's happened…I spent 25 years married to her, and it wasn't all fun and games. But either way, I don't want to see her go out suffering. I want this over with. There aint no second thoughts.”
 
Steele had already paid Fairfax $10,000 in silver and promised much more money if he went through with the murders, Haws said.
 
Fairfax is expected to testify. Haws said investigators presented Steele with his wife's fake death certificate when they arrived at his home to arrest him June 11.
 
Haws' opening statement just ended. Opening statements from Steele's defense team are next, after a 10-minute break. 
 
Steele's supporters, including his wife, believe he has been framed by the federal government.
 
Cyndi Steele said the Russian women prosecutors refer to were involved in her husband's legal work against human trafficking.

13 women, 1 man to hear Steele case

BOISE - Thirteen women and one man will hear the case of a North Idaho attorney accused of hiring a man to kill his wife and mother-in-law.

Two of the 14 jurors selected Tuesday for the trial of Edgar Steele will be alternates. All will hear opening statements today beginning at 8:30 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Boise.
 
The jurors were selected from a pool of 65. At least 20 said they'd heard of the case through the media, but all said they still felt they could be impartial.
 
All jurors were asked if they were affiliated with groups that advocated “racial or ethnic superiority” or opposed it.
 
Only one said yes - a woman who said her daughter served as the youth representative for the Ada County Human Rights Commission. She was not stricken because of that.
 
Steele faces at least 30 years in prison if convicted of possessing a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence. He's also charged with use of interstate commerce to commission murder for hire, use of explosive material to commit a federal felony and tampering with a victim. 
 
Steele's supporters, including his wife, say he has been framed by the government to silence him for his views  and legal work. Steele calls himself “attorney for the damned” and is known for defending the Aryan Nations against the lawsuit that bankrupted the racist group. 
 
Past coverage:
 
April 26: Jury selection begins in Edgar Steele trial

Jury selection begins in Edgar Steele trial

BOISE - Jury selection is underway in the trial of a North Idaho lawyer accused of hiring a hitman to kill his wife and mother-in-law.

Edgar J. Steele, 65, faces at least 30 years in prison if convicted of his most serious charge - possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence.

Steele also is charged with use of interstate commerce to commission murder for hire, use of explosive material to commit a federal felony and tampering with a victim. The tampering charge stems from a phone call he made to his wife, Cyndi Steele, from the Kootenai County Jail after his arrest. 

A pool of 65 potential jurors was called to the federal courthouse in Boise this morning. Fourteen will be selected; two as alternates.

A couple jurors have already been dismissed because of scheduling conflicts and financial difficulties.

About 20 potential jurors said they'd heard of the case before today, but all said they could still be impartial. One woman said she heard about the case from her sister who lives in North Idaho.

“I would hope I would be able to put it out of my mind, yes,” she said.

She was stricken from the pool not because of that incident but because she said serving would be a personal hardship because she needs to help her husband with their cattle farm.

One man said he told a friend he couldn't make lunch today because of jury selection. The friend replied via email that the “Steele case” was underway and that he should “tell them you don't like lawyers,” the man told U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.

He remains in the jury pool.

Steele's supporters say he has been framed by the government to silence him for his views and legal work. Steele calls himself “attorney for the damned” and is well known for defending the Aryan Nations against the lawsuit that bankrupted the racist group.

Cyndi Steele believes he is innocent and has criticized prosecutors for not pursing more serious charges against the alleged hitman-turned-FBI informant, Larry Fairfax. Fairfax (pictured) is expected to testify at trial.

Fairfax was arrested June 15 after Coeur d’Alene auto shop workers found a pipe bomb under Cyndi Steele’s car. The FBI says Fairfax put it there but never told investigators.

Fairfax pleaded guilty last October to two federal weapons charges and is to be sentenced after Steele's trial.

Prosecutors say Steele wanted his wife murdered because he “had been establishing a relationship with a young woman who lives outside of the United States,” according to court documents. Cyndi Steele says her husband was helping the woman in relation to his work fighting human trafficking. 

Steele's lawyers wanted to call expert witnesses who believe the recordings of Fairfax and Steele discussing the plot have been altered, but a judge rejected that last week.

The trial was moved to Boise after it was delayed at the last minute March 7 in Coeur d'Alene.

Court is scheduled until 5 p.m. today. Opening statements could take place this afternoon.

Trial for the rest of the week is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Past coverage:

April 13: Audio experts to testify at Steele trial

Ruling a setback for Steeleā€™s defense

BOISE - Edgar Steele’s defense won’t be able to call two expert witnesses it lined up to question the authenticity of FBI tapes of Steele talking with Larry Fairfax about an alleged murder-for-hire plot against Steele’s wife, Cyndi, a federal judge in Boise ruled Thursday.

The testimony and expertise from one proposed expert was unreliable, U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill found, and the qualifications and testimony of the second were irrelevant, at least at this point.

Steele, a self-described “attorney for the damned” who’s represented clients including the Aryan Nations, goes to trial on Tuesday on four felony charges related to an alleged murder-for-hire plot to kill his wife and mother-in-law; he faces up to 30 years in prison.

Cyndi Steele’s lawyer, Wesley Hoyt, is the one who contacted the proposed experts and sent them the FBI tapes. “Mrs. Steele believes that the tapes were manipulated,” he said after the judge’s ruling Thursday. “The victim is totally supporting the accused. She believes in his innocence.”

Read the rest of Betsy Z. Russell's story here.

Past coverage:

April 19: Evidence hearing set for Edgar Steele

April 13: Audio experts to testify at Steele trial

Edgar Steele trial drew volunteer jurors

Here's a report from Betsy Z. Russell:

BOISE - When a federal court prepared to select a jury in Coeur d’Alene last month to try former Aryan Nations lawyer Edgar Steele on charges including murder for hire, the court got a rare surprise: Some people showed up and tried to volunteer.

Steele now is scheduled to go to trial in Boise on Tuesday. At a hearing Wednesday on pre-trial issues, U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill said , “There was a rather unusual event in Coeur d’Alene - several individuals showed up and wanted to volunteer to be on the jury.”

Winmill said he’s never seen that happen in all his years of judicial service. “It was rather odd,” he said.

So when jury selection starts in Boise on Tuesday, the judge said, court personnel have been instructed to not admit any prospective volunteers.

Steele faces up to 30 years in federal prison on four felony charges related to an alleged murder-for-hire plot to kill his wife and mother-in-law.

Evidence hearing set for Edgar Steele

A judge will review evidence in the Edgar Steele murder-for-hire case at a hearing Wednesday in Boise.

Federal prosecutors are concerned about reports from two defense experts that they say are repetitive and lack the substance needed to be admitted at trial, which is set to begin with jury selection next Tuesday in Boise. One report is a “copy and paste” of the other, prosecutors say.

Trial was to begin March 7, but prosecutors wanted defense expert Dr. George Papcun excluded from trial, and U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said he couldn't issue a ruling then. Prosecutors then joined in the defense motion to continue trial, leading to the delay.

Winmill said he would review Papcun's report at the evidence hearing. On March 17, defense filed an expert notice for Dennis Walsh, but prosecutors say Walsh's report is identical to Papcun's report. They've asked for Walsh's testimony to be excluded or for him to provide “a more full report,” accoridng to court documents.

Winmill is to consider those issues on Wednesday.

In a memorandum filed Monday, prosecutors cited case law that says courts “may conclude that there is simply too great an analytical gap between the data and the opinion proffered” and exclude testimony.

They said neither Papcun nor Walsh submitted reports that indicate their testimony will be based on sufficient facts or reliable principals.

“Interestingly, the opinion provided in George Papcun's report seems to have been “cut and pasted” into Dennis Walsh's report verbatim,” according to the memo.

The reports say the recordings, which investigators say show Steele discussing the murder plot with hitman-turned-FBI-informant Larry Fairfax, are unreliable and “do not accurately reflect the sounds and conversations that actually occurred.”

But prosecutors say they do not offer details.

“The experts unsupported opinion that the voices on the recordings are dubbed or do not belong to Steele is designed to confuse the jury,” accoridng to the memo.

Steele's lawyers, Gary Amendola and Robert McAllister, were not immediately available for comment. 

Steele was to undergo a mental health examination last week in Boise at the request of prosecutors.

His wife, Cyndi Steele (left), said he will not be presenting an insanity defense, rather, Steele's lawyers will argue that he was under the influence of medication and could have been easily influenced and manipulated by Fairfax. 

Those expected to testify for the defense include Daryl James Hollingsworth (right), a Bonner County Jail inmate who recently pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.

Hollingsworth may have had contact with Steele and/or Fairfax while in jail.

Past coverage:

April 13: Audio experts to testify at Steele trial

June 20, 2010: Arrest puts Steele back in public eye

Read more past coverage here.

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