February 18, 2011 in City

Prosecutors say Steele sought ‘relationship’ with woman outside U.S.

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Edgar J. Steele
(Full-size photo)

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A North Idaho lawyer accused of hiring a hit man to kill his wife was involved with another woman who received a letter from him after his arrest, federal prosecutors allege.

Edgar J. Steele, 65, wanted his wife murdered because he “had been establishing a relationship with a young woman who lives outside of the United States,” according to documents filed this week in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene.

Ukrainian officials interviewed the woman and say she provided them with a letter she received from Steele after his arrest last June. Prosecutors say they plan to show jurors other letters and evidence outlining steps Steele took to meet the woman.

The new information regarding Steele’s alleged motive in the murder-for-hire plot was included in documents filed by prosecutors seeking to keep Steele in custody without bail pending his trial next month.

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.

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.”

“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.

Steele, a self-described “lawyer for the damned” who defended the Aryan Nations, remains at the Spokane County Jail. He faces four federal felony charges alleging he hired a hit man-turned-FBI-informant, Larry Fairfax, who rigged a pipe bomb to Cyndi Steele’s SUV. Fairfax has pleaded guilty to federal weapons charges for the device and is to be sentenced after Steele’s trial.

Steele faces an additional charge of tampering with a victim for a phone call he made to his wife after his arrest. His lawyers filed a request Thursday for him to be tried separately on that charge.

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

Neither lawyer could be reached for comment Thursday.

Prosecutors cited the mental defect defense in documents arguing against Steele’s release.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan said in court documents that she doesn’t know what defect or disease Steele may suffer but said the claim was “concerning” if Steele leaves jail.

“If the defendant could not control his actions and that is why he hired a hit man, what is to stop that from happening again?”

McAllister emphasized that Cyndi Steele supports her husband and doesn’t believe the allegations against him.

He said he plans to appeal Dale’s decision to detain Steele without bail.

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