A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal from Edgar Steele, the self-proclaimed “attorney for the damned” from North Idaho, who was sentenced to 50 years in prison for the attempted murder-for-hire of his wife.
Steele claimed improper jury instructions and other errors in his conviction, but a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected those claims in a decision issued Thursday.
“There was no error in the instruction, plain or otherwise,” the court found. It also ruled that the U.S. District Court in Idaho didn’t err when it didn’t take up Steele’s claim of improper assistance of counsel before conviction; that can be considered in post-conviction proceedings, the court ruled.
A federal jury convicted Steele of four felonies for paying a handyman in silver to kill his wife and mother-in-law with a car bomb. Steele maintained the whole thing was a government conspiracy, and that audiotapes of him discussing the plot with the handyman were fabricated.
Steele defended Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler in the landmark 2000 civil case that bankrupted the racist group.
At his sentencing in federal court in 2011, Steele called his case a conspiracy by the federal government, anti-hate groups and the Russia mafia to silence him for his ideology and his legal work. “All of American society is a victim in this case,” he declared.
Prosecutors said Steele wanted to kill his wife so he could be with a young Ukrainian woman he met online. They said it was the attempted murder, not Steele’s views or legal work, that prompted the case.
Steele’s wife, Cyndi, defended him; one of the four felony convictions was for tampering with a victim, when he called her from jail and told her to deny that the voice on the audiotape was his.
Steele’s attorney at his trial, Robert McAllister of Colorado, was disbarred a month after the jury verdict for stealing money in an unrelated case; Steele hired new lawyers for his sentencing.
At the sentencing, Steele told the court he’d continue fighting the charges. “If I finally have to fire every lawyer in the country and hire myself, I’ll do it,” he said.