February 24, 2011 in Idaho, News

Murder-for-hire suspect wants trial moved to Wyoming

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Sirens & Gavels

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Edgar Steele, the former Aryan Nations lawyer now charged with plotting to kill his wife, wants his murder-for-hire trial moved to Wyoming.

A change of venue request filed by Steele’s lawyers, Robert McAllister and Gary Amendola, cites “negative pre-trial publicity” that will hinder finding an impartial jury in North Idaho.

The lawyers say ongoing news coverage, including the release of phone calls that are the basis for a witness tampering charge against Steele, was assisted by the U.S. government or Spokane County Jail officials.

“There was no need for anyone to release evidence in a criminal case to the media other than to gain an unfair advantage,” according to the motion.

The phone calls were actually made from the Kootenai County Jail - not Spokane, where Steele has since been housed. The Spokesman-Review obtained the recordings after they were played in open court at Steele’s bail hearing last June, and became part of the court record.

McAllister and Amendola want the trial moved to U.S. District Court in Cheyenne, Wyo., where potential jurors who “know nothing about the negative and highly prejudicial pre-trial publicity” are available. If the request is denied, the lawyers want to conduct “careful and deliberate voir dire examination” regarding pre-trial publicity.

Federal prosecutors have until 5 p.m. today to respond.

Steele is accused of hiring a hitman turned FBI informant to kill his wife, Cyndi Steele. A pipe bomb was later found attached to Cyndi Steele’s vehicle but it never exploded. Prosecutors say he was involved with another woman overseas. In a prepared statement, Cyndi Steele says she knew of the woman, who she says was contacted by her husband as part of his ongoing legal work to stop human trafficking.

The trial is set to begin March 7.


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