As the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals prepares to hear oral arguments in Edgar J. Steele’s appeal of a murder-for-hire conviction, his family released a video maintaining he is innocent.
The documentary-style video is called “Witness to the Persecution: The Plot to Silence Edgar Steele,” and was produced by his wife, Cyndi Steele.
Cyndi Steele maintains her husband did not hire a hit man to kill her. He was convicted by a federal jury in Boise in May 2011 and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
“Maybe I’m more passionate because time is running out for my husband,” Cyndi Steele told the Coeur d’Alene Press on Monday. He is 67 years old and being held in a federal prison in Victorville, Calif., she said.
“Ineffective assistance of counsel is a huge issue,” she said, and gives her husband the best chance of getting another trial.
Robert T. McAllister, of Denver, who was Steele’s primary attorney during his trial, was disbarred about a month after the jury made its decision.
McAllister later pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit financial fraud and one count of bankruptcy fraud in federal court in Denver.
The Denver Post has reported that McAllister told a judge he had provided ineffective counsel to Steele during the trial. McAllister told the Post that his “mental state had deteriorated.”
Among the Steele family’s complaints about McAllister’s performance was his failure to subpoena forensic audio expert George Papcun to ensure his appearance at trial.
Papcun was going to challenge the authenticity of secret recordings of the murder-for-hire plot gathered by the FBI with the cooperation of the hired hit-man-turned-informant Larry Fairfax. Instead, Papcun took vacation.
At trial, the jury heard audio recordings of Steele making statements to Fairfax, his handyman around the Steele family’s ranch in Sagle. The jury determined this confirmed Steele’s participation in the murder-for-hire plot.
Fairfax said at trial that Steele paid him $10,000 in silver coins as a down payment to kill Cyndi Steele and her mother.
Larry Fairfax attached a pipe bomb underneath her SUV, but it never detonated. It was discovered during an oil change.
Supporters, including Steele’s friend and neighbor Allen Banks, believe federal authorities wanted Edgar Steele dead. Banks said Steele was frail from recent serious surgeries, and authorities hoped the stress of his arrest and subsequent incarceration would kill him.
In the video, Banks said, “The problem of Edgar Steele and his big mouth would go away.”
Steele, as an attorney, represented Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler.
The family has maintained that the audio recordings were manufactured or tampered with in some way by the federal government. The couple’s three children all believe he’s innocent.