Posts tagged: Edgar Steele
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.
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.
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.
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 - 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.
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.
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.
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.
BOISE - Idaho State Police Trooper Jess Spike has notified families of about two dozen deaths in his career.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
BOISE - Prosecutors say the case against Edgar Steele is simple.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.