Posts tagged: murder plots
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.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal jury has unanimously convicted a former Coeur d'Alene-area developer of crafting a murder-for-hire scheme to kill a prosecutor and key witnesses in a North Idaho drug case.
Kelly J. Polatis was found guilty Wednesday of 14 combined counts of witness tampering and using interstate commerce in the commission of a murder-for-hire. The jury acquitted Polatis of three charges. Defense attorney Lawrence Leigh says he'll appeal.
U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups will sentence Polatis on Sept. 30. He faces more than 130 years in prison.
Prosecutors say Polatis attempted to hire an undercover FBI agent posing as a hit man to kill five people who spoke to authorities about his involvement in a marijuana growing operation in Coeur d'Alene. Polatis was acquitted of the drug charges in 2010 and arrested on the murder-for-hire charges the same day.
A federal jury in Salt Lake City on Wednesday continued to deliberate the fate of a former North Idaho developer accused of plotting to kill several witnesses and a federal prosecutor connected to a drug case filed against him in Idaho.
Jurors began their second day of deliberations in the murder-for-hire case of 41-year-old Kelly J. Polatis, following a 7-day trial and closing arguments in the case, which wrapped up Tuesday.
NEW YORK (AP) — A hip-hop mogul wanted by federal authorities on drug charges did not orchestrate a plot to ambush rapper Tupac Shakur outside a recording studio in the mid-1990s, his lawyer said Thursday.
The accusations against James Rosemond, owner of Czar Entertainment, were levied online and attributed to convicted killer Dexter Isaac, who is serving a life
sentence in an unrelated murder-for-hire plot. Isaac says, according to the website AllHipHop.com, that he was paid $2,500 by Rosemond to shoot and rob Shakur.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — An elderly grandmother who left a trail of five dead husbands in five states over decades has died, leaving a longer trail of questions for survivors of her spouses that might never be answered.
Betty Neumar, 79, died late Sunday or early Monday in a hospital in Louisiana after an illness, her son-in-law Terry Sanders told The Associated Press.
“She was tough country girl and fought through a lot of pain,” said Sanders, who has been married 38 years to Neumar's daughter.
Authorities in North Carolina said they planned to look into her death. She was free on $300,000 bond on three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder in the 1986 death of her fourth husband, Harold Gentry. Her trial was postponed numerous times since her arrest in 2008.
“We're going to make sure we examine the death certificate,” said Sheriff Rick Burris of Stanly County, N.C.
Read the rest of the story by Associated Press writer Mitch Weiss by clicking the link below.
Trial for a man accused of plotting to kill a federal prosecutor and witnesses in a North Idaho marijuana case is set for July.
Pre-trial motions in the case of Kelly J. Polatis are due by June 1 with jury selection set to begin July 11, a federal judge in Utah ruled last week.
Polatis has been in federal custody in Utah since April 2010, just after a North Idaho federal jury acquitted him of drug charges related to a mairjuana grow operation in Post Falls.
Before his acquittal, prosecutors say Polatis tried to kill his co-defendants by hiring a man who turned out to be an undercover FBI agents.
A judge recently rejected a request by his lawyers to dismiss the murder-for-hire charges for outrageous government misconduct. The defense alleged the FBI agents led Polatis on when he was drunk, and also alleged prosecutors were vindictive when they filed the case right after Polatis was acquitted on the marijuana charges.
According to court documents, Polatis met with FBI Agent Greg Rogers, who was posing as a hitman, on May 13, 2009, at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, where they gambled, ate lunch and discussed a murder-for-hire proposal. Rogers told Polatis he would need a $15,000 down payment, and Polatis said that was fine.
Two days later, Polatis called Rogers and said he wanted to hire him”to cut off the finger of a man he believed had been cheating with his common-law wife,” accoridng to court documents. “Polatis also indicted that having Agent Rogers commit that act would give Polatis absolutely confidence in Roger in connection with the murder-for-hire.”
Prosecutors say Rogers knew the name of one of Polatis' intended victims before the meeting but not others.
“…Agents were unaware of the identities of those victims until Polatis actually met with Agent Rogers,” according to court documents. “Agents were also completely surprised when Polatis raised the issue with Agents Rogers of killing Assistant United States Attorney Nancy Cook.”
Polatis is represented by Lawrence Leigh of Slat Lake City and Gabriel Grasso of Las Vegas, who was part of former football great O.J. Simpson's defense team in 2008. They say Polatis was set up by the FBI, and that Rogers badgered him into discussing the plot while intoxicated.
Polatis is a former partner with Kirk-Hughes Development, LLC, which fought Kootenai County’s rejection of its proposed Chateau de Loire lakeside development. The firm's lawyer appeared in court with him when he was first arrested.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 - 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.