February 16, 2011 in Idaho

Judge rejects murder plot defendant’s bail request

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Edgar J. Steele
(Full-size photo)

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Audio

Listen to Edgar Steele’s phone calls with his wife and son here.

A North Idaho lawyer accused of hiring a hitman to kill his wife remains jailed after a failed attempt by his lawyers to implement a $1 million bond.

Edgar J. Steele’s new private attorneys, Gary Amendola, of Coeur d’Alene, and Robert McAllister, of Denver, asked U.S. Magistrate Candy Dale to allow Steele’s wife and alleged victim, Cyndi Steele, to testify Wednesday regarding her willingness to put up her property in exchange for her husband’s release pending trial.

But Dale refused and questioned their claim that her decision to keep Steele in jail last June was based on “foundation-less, hearsay-filled evidence.”

She read excerpts from phone calls Steele made to his son and wife after his arrest in which he urged her to tell authorities it was not his voice discussing the murder plot on secretly taped recordings.

“I think if you had taken the time to listen to the detention hearing…that you would not have even submitted this motion to the court,” Dale told McAllister. “There has not been a single change in circumstances.”

Dale said there was no legal basis for reopening Steele’s detention hearing, which took place June 22, so the motion for $1 million property-backed bond never was considered.

Dale questioned why Cyndi Steele didn’t testify at the hearing in June. McAllister said she hadn’t yet listened to the recording of her husband discussing the alleged plot with hitman-turned FBI informant Larry Fairfax. Though her husband urged her to say the voice on the tapes wasn’t his, Cyndi Steele wanted to make up her own mind, McAllister said.

“She refused to be tampered with,” McAllister said.

After listening to the tapes, Cyndi Steele told investigators that the voice was her husband’s, but that she knew he hadn’t plotted to harm her.

“She did not agree to her husband’s request,” McAllister said.

But Dale said Steele’s attorneys were too focused on the fact that Cyndi Steele doesn’t believe the allegations instead of the fact that Edgar Steele attempted to influence her thoughts on the case, as well as those of his son, Rex Steele.

“My determination was there was at minimum an attempt on his behalf….and not just with Cyndi Steele but with Rex Steele as well,” she said. “Focusing on the ‘attempt’ language may help you understand my ruling.”

Dale also raised concerns about the lack of recordings that have been filed regarding the Steeles’ court-approved weekly visits. She’s heard only one recording and said she can’t understand what Steele is saying.

“I couldn’t rule out that in some of these meetings there could be ongoing attempts to intimidate Mrs. Steele,” Dale said.

Dale read several excerpts from transcripts of Edgar Steele’s phone calls to his wife and son. Listen to those calls above.

Steele’s trial is scheduled to begin March 7.

Amendola and McAllister said in court documents filed Feb. 7 that they intend to “introduce expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect bearing on (Steele’s) guilt and his lack of a knowing or intentional mental state.”

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