September 20, 2010 in Idaho, News

Intended victim of pipe bomb attack critical of plea bargain

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photo

Cyndi Steele defends her husband, Edgar Steele, against FBI accusations that he orchestrated a plot to kill her during a press conference at Silver Lake Motel in Coeur d’Alene on Monday, Sept. 20, 2010.
(Full-size photo)

More on this topic

Background and the latest updates

The wife of a North Idaho lawyer accused of plotting her murder said federal agents knew a pipe bomb was attached to her car before it was discovered at a Coeur d’Alene auto shop, but they withheld the information in what she said amounts to a conspiracy against her husband.

“My husband is innocent, and the only reason the (Federal Bureau of Investigation) put him in jail is to silence him,” Cyndi Steele said in a news conference Monday in Coeur d’Alene.

Accompanied by her lawyer, Wesley Hoyt of Colorado, Steele blasted the federal government for what she said was a rush to convict her husband, Edgar Steele, over false claims from a man trying to hide his theft of silver from the Steeles.

She said the federal government targeted her husband because of his history of defending the “politically incorrect” and ignored the criminal acts of Larry Fairfax, who federal agents say is a would-be-hit-man-turned-informant.

“The FBI refuses to do its job. They refused to properly prosecute Larry Fairfax,” Steele said. “They have failed to arrest and charge the unnamed accomplices of Larry Fairfax, and I’d like to know why.”

It was Steele’s first time speaking out since Edgar Steele was arrested at his Sandpoint-area home on June 11, accused of hiring Fairfax to kill his wife and mother-in-law.

Steele said Monday that Fairfax had performed maintenance work for her family since the late 1990s but had recently filed for bankruptcy. He approached the FBI about the supposed murder plot only after Edgar Steele realized Fairfax had stolen $45,000 in silver from his home, Steele said.

Eager to jail her husband, who gained international notoriety when he represented the Aryan Nations in the civil case that bankrupted the racist group, federal agents went along with the fraudulent scheme, she said.

She recently helped nurse him back to health after two aneurysms. She also emphasized that her husband recently helped pay her mother’s mortgage. “Ed has no motive to kill me, or us.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan said Cyndi Steele’s press conference was “certainly within her rights.”

“I just know that we’re proceeding with our case as we believe is appropriate,” Whelan said.

Federal authorities have not publicly commented on a possible motive for the murder plot. Steele said she’s been told several reasons, none of which is true, she said.

Edgar Steele is incarcerated at the Spokane County Jail. His trial is set for November.

Fairfax is to plead guilty to two federal firearms charges in October. Cyndi Steele said he deserves to be charged with attempted murder for the pipe bomb discovered under her car on June 15.

Fairfax was arrested after auto shop employees found the device; the FBI said he spoke about it when he approached them about the murder plot.

But Steele said she believes federal agents had known of the pipe bomb since a couple days before her husband’s arrest. She said she heard the word “bomb” mentioned multiple times on the recordings between Fairfax and her husband, but federal agents said they hadn’t heard it.

The FBI has long maintained that, after Fairfax and Steele’s arrests, the public was not at risk.

But Steele said she won’t feel safe until Fairfax’s accomplices, including a man who federal agents say traveled with him to Oregon to check on the pipe bomb, are arrested.

Hoyt played a voice mail he received Monday from an anonymous caller naming an alleged accomplice to Fairfax. The caller claimed Fairfax and the man had told FBI agents about the pipe bomb long before it was discovered at the auto shop.

Hoyt, who served as prosecuting attorney in Idaho County from 1994 to 1997, said the government has the ability to manipulate voice recordings and said murder for hire is a charge often brought by federal prosecutors to target specific people.

He pointed to the case of

David Roland Hinkson, a wealthy North Idaho businessman convicted in 2005 of plotting to kill officials involved in a separate tax case against him.

Described as a “hard-core patriot” by his anti-government associates, Hinkson is to be released from prison in 30 years.

Hoyt said he’d never met Edgar Steele before his arrest. He learned of the case through his contacts as a columnist for the Central Idaho Post in Grangeville.

He said he’s representing Cyndi Steele pro bono.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email