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Steele seeks to keep feds out of client files

A former lawyer for the Aryan Nations is asking a judge to stop federal investigators from searching materials seized from his North Idaho home law office.

Edgar J. Steele is concerned government searches may compromise attorney-client privilege, according to documents filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene. 

“There is a concern that Mr. Steele represents clients and groups that are of interest to the government,” wrote Steele’s federal public defenders, Roger Peven and Kailey Moran.

Steele is accused of hiring someone to kill his wife and mother-in-law. He’s being housed at the Spokane County Jail after a raid June 11 at his home on Talache Road, east of Shepherd Lake near Sagle, where the FBI believes he plotted with Sagle resident Larry Fairfax to use pipe bombs kill Cynthia Steele and her mother-in-law. Fairfax went to the FBI and secretly recorded Steele talking of the plot, leading to Steele’s arrest, according to court documents.

Fairfax was arrested June 15 after Coeur d’Alene auto shop workers found a pipe bomb under Cynthia Steele’s car - the FBI says Fairfax put it there but never told investigators.

Fairfax waived a grand jury indictment last week and is charged through complaint with possession of an unregistered firearm and unlawful manufacturing of a firearm. He’s being held without bail.

Steele’s lawyers say they’ve received copies of conversations between Fairfax and Steele, but no other evidence, including the items seized from Steele’s home, has been provided. The motion filed Monday seeks a preliminarily injunction to stop the search of Steele’s computers and files “until the warrant can be received to determine if proper procedures are in place to protect the privacy of the information seized.”

Moran did not return a phone call seeking comment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office hasn’t yet filed a response, and no hearing for the motion has been scheduled.

Past coverage:

June 22: Steele’s phone calls to wife, son released

June 20: Arrest puts Steele back in public eye

June 16: Steele: ‘This is a very emotional situation’

CPD Blues Confiscate Nazi Signs

As I mentioned in Scanner Traffic Tuesday, two neo-Nazis (including one with long hair and another in a tan Ford Explorer) put up swastika signs on utility poles along Highway 95, from Neider to Bosanko, yesterday afternoon. Sgt. Christie Wood responded to a HucksOnline inquiry with this: “We took a report for Scattering of Handbills. It falls under City ordinance 8.36.110 and is a misdemeanor. It appears we have good follow-up information with a vehicle and suspect description, as well as the license plate number to one of the vehicles. The report will be forwarded to detectives and we will investigate it.”

Steele’s phone calls to wife, son released

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Edgar Steele’s call to his son
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Edgar Steele’s call to his wife

Federal murder-for-hire suspect Edgar Steele will stay in jail pending trial after a judge found he had attempted to intimidate potential witnesses in the case – his wife and son.

In a detention hearing Tuesday, federal prosecutors played two tapes of phone conversations Steele had with his wife, Cyndi, and his son, Rex, while being held at Kootenai County Jail on June 13.

On the tapes, Steele warns his wife that she will be contacted by government officials the following morning and will be asked to authenticate his voice on recordings that he tells her are doctored to sound as if he’s hiring a hit man to kill her. He pleads with her to say that it’s not his voice she hears on the tapes.

Listen to the recordings above.

Read Alison Boggs’s story on today’s hearing here.

Past coverage:

June 21: No bail for suspect in pipe bomb murder plot

June 20: Arrest puts Steele back in public eye

June 17: Pipe bomb suspect in federal custody

June 16: Steele: ‘This is a very emotional situation’

June 16: Bomb found on SUV registered to suspect

Suspect in murder plot held without bail

A suspected hitman-turned-informant who federal investigators say didn’t tell them he’d already planted a bomb on the car of a murder-plot target was ordered held without bail on Monday.

U.S. Magistrate Candy Dale called her decision to keep Larry A. Fairfax, 49, behind bars “very difficult” but said he was a danger to the community.

Fairfax has been in jail since June 11 after auto shop employees found a pipe bomb attached to a car brought in by Steele’s wife Cyndi Steele for an oil change. The Sagle man told investigators the week before that he’d been hired by Steele to murder Steele’s wife and mother-in-law but didn’t tell them about the pipe bomb, federal agents testified on Monday.

The two-hour hearing included testimony from Fairfax’s 26-year-old son, wife of 31 years and a retired judge and lawyer, Jim Michaud, who called Fairfax “about the hardest working guy I know.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

June 20: Arrest puts Steele back in public eye

June 17: Pipe bomb suspect in federal custody

June 16: Steele: ‘This is a very emotional situation’

June 16: Bomb found on SUV registered to suspect

Suspect in Steele’s murder plot due in court

 The man accused of planting a pipe bomb under Edgar Steele’s wife’s SUV is due in federal court in Coeur d’Alene this afternoon for a bail hearing.

Larry A. Fairfax, 49, has been in custody since last Monday night.

The Sagle man apparently told federal agents about an alleged murder plot hatched by Steele against his wife, Cyndi Steele, and his mother-in-law but didn’t tell them about the pipe bomb. He was arrested after employees at an auto shop found it when Cyndi Steele came in for an oil change about 12:30 p.m. lat Tuesday. Her son picked her up, and the two were at Edgar Steele’s first court appearance at 4:30 p.m.

Steele is being housed at the Spokane County Jail. He’s due in court tomorrow morning for a bail hearing. He has a public defender but said last week that he hopes to hire Coeur d’Alene attorney Glen Walker, former Kootenia County prosecutor.

As I explain in this Sunday story, Steele (pictured right in 2000) calls himself “the attorney for the damned,” has gained national attention for his work with high-profile clients and was a coveted speaker in the national racist movement for years.

Check out photos of Steele over the years here.

Past coverage:

June 17: Pipe bomb suspect in federal custody

June 16: Steele: ‘This is a very emotional situation’

June 16: Bomb found on SUV registered to suspect

Informant forgets to tell FBI about pipe bomb

A man who approached federal agents last week about an alleged murder-for-hire plot hatched by a former lawyer for the Aryan Nations may have left out a key detail: He’d already rigged an explosive to the intended victim’s car.

 Larry Andrew Fairfax, 49, remains in federal custody after appearing in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene on Wednesday on firearms charges related to a pipe bomb attached to the bottom of Edgar Steele’s wife’s SUV Tuesday. Auto shop employees found the explosive Tuesday during an oil change.

Although federal agents won’t confirm whether it was Fairfax who tipped them last week to the alleged murder plot, citing rules for protecting the identity of confidential informants, they said Wednesday they are not looking for any additional suspects in the case.

“There’s no pending public safety threat,” said Don Robinson, supervisory agent for the FBI’s Coeur d’Alene office.

Fairfax was arrested Tuesday at Coeur d’Alene police headquarters after he told investigators he made the bomb at his home on Ponderosa Road near Sagle, about six miles from Steele’s Talache Road home, which was raided by federal agents Friday.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

June 16: Steele: ‘This is a very emotional situation’

June 16: Bomb found on SUV registered to suspect

Steele: ‘This is a very emotional situation’

Appearing for the first time on federal charges related to an alleged murder-for-hire plot, Edgar Steele described himself Tuesday as a “frail” and “elderly” man who’s undergone four surgeries in the past six months, including open heart surgery. He also blasted the federal agents for seizing what he said were attorney-client files regarding federal cases with pending appeals.

The 64-year-old attorney, known for his unsuccessful defense of the Aryan Nations in the landmark 2000 case that bankrupted the racist group, represented himself during the hearing and pleaded “absolutely, completely not guilty” to a charge that he hired a man to kill his wife and mother-in-law.

The charge, use of interstate commerce for the commission of murder for hire, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Steele is reportedly on voice record telling an FBI informant “to make sure that they were dead after the accident because Edgar Steele did not want to take care of a paraplegic” and promising to compensate the informant’s family if he got caught, according to a probable cause affidavit prepared by the FBI.

In court Tuesday, Steele said he’s not a flight risk and dispute an apparent claim from the government in confidential records that his writings show he would flee prosecution. He said his writings show just the opposite, that he will stand for what he believes in and respects “the American way.”

Steele appeared most passionate when arguing against the no contact order between him and the alleged victims. At one point, Assistant U.S Attorney Traci Whelan asked Judge Candy Dale to order Steele to address the judge instead of her. Dale did.

After the no contact order was issued, Steele pointed in the direction of his wife and son, prompting Whelan to say to Dale: “Your honor I just ask that the record reflect that Mr. Steele just pointed at his wife and directed her to get up and talk to me.”

Steele said he pointed at his son - not his wife. “I know better than that, your honor,” he said. He added, “Understand that this is a very emotional situation for me.”

Steele has been in custody since Friday after a raid at his home at 1569 Talache Road, about 10 miles south of Sandpoint and just east of Shepherd Lake.

On Tuesday, just hours after a grand jury indicted him, Steele said federal authorities seized “our life savings” during the raid and that he hopes to hire private counsel but isn’t sure he’ll be able to. A public defender will be assigned for his bail hearing, set for next Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in Coeur d’Alene.

His court appearance yesterday came just hours after a bomb was discovered on his wife’s SUV.

Read the full story: Bomb found on wife’s car just before Steele appears in court

Past coverage:

June 14: North Idaho attorney charged in murder-for-hire plot

Prosecutors Say Steele Is Flight Risk

Federal prosecutors want Edgar J. Steele held without bail before his trial on murder-for-hire charges. Steele, 64, was charged Friday - the same day prosecutors say he wanted an acquaintance to kill his wife and mother-in-law in a car crash meant to look like an accident. Steele is well-known from his work for hate groups such as the Aryan Nations and other high-profile clients, including the McGuckin family, who held off police during a 2001 Idaho standoff. He’s also known for vocal anti-Semitic and racist rants on the Internet. Steele unsuccessfully defended the Aryan Nations and its founder, Richard Butler, in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit brought against them in 2000. That loss ultimately bankrupted the Aryan Nations/Kathleen Kreller, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: Who do you think took the worse jail mug shot — Steele, above, or condiment vandal Joy Cassidy, just below?

Edgar Steele Hearing Delayed ‘Til Tuesday

Alison Boggs/SR (re: ex-Aryan Nations attorney Edgar Steele faces charges in murder-for-hire plot): The U.S. Attorney’s office told me Edgar Steele’s hearing was pushed off to tomorrow because they had to evacuate their building (due to white powder being found in an envelope). They did not have a time for the new hearing yet.

1st on Sirens: Edgar Steele’s mugshot

 Edgar J. Steele, the lawyer who represented the Aryan Nations, is due in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene at 3:30 p.m. today on a felony charge of using interstate commerce to commission murder for hire.

Steele was arrested Friday at his Sagle home, accused of trying to hire someone to kill his wife and mother-in-law. He was booked into the Kootenai County Jail.

Read the story here.

Ex-Aryans lawyer arrested in murder plot

A North Idaho attorney who defended the Aryan Nations and its founder, Richard Butler, is scheduled to appear in federal court today on charges he arranged to have his wife and mother-in-law killed.

Edgar J. Steele, 64, (left, in 2001) was arrested Friday at his Sagle home and charged in the murder-for-hire plot.

That was the day the women were to be killed in a car crash meant to look like an accident, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

Read the rest of the story here.

Ex-Aryan Nations Attorney Edgar Steele Faces Charges In Murder-for-Hire Plot

In this August 2000 SR file photo, Edgar Steele, attorney for Richard Butler, leaves the Kootenai County Courthouse during a break in a civil trial that would eventually bankrupt the Aryan Nations. (SR File Photo: Kathy Plonka)

Item: North Idaho attorney charged in murder-for-hire plot: Prosecutors say Edgar J. Steele, long tied to hate groups, agreed to pay money to see his wife and her mother dead/Kathleen Kreller & Cynthia Sewell, Idaho Statesman

More Info: Steele is well known from his work for hate groups such as the Aryan Nations and other high-profile clients, including the McGuckin family, who held off police during a 2001 Idaho standoff. He’s also known for vocal anti-semitic and racist rants on the Internet.The witness told the FBI Steele paid $500 in cash for travel expenses and promised as much as $25,000 if the murders were completed on Friday. According to the affidavit, Steele promised the witness another $100,000 if an insurance policy paid out after his wife’s murder.


Aryan Nations Moving To Oregon?

Originally published Friday night

Leaders of the Aryan Nations in Idaho say they want to move the headquarters of their white supremacist movement to Grant County. Paul R. Mullet, who called himself national director of the movement, was in John Day this week, looking at property to buy for a new “national compound.” … Mullet, wearing a uniform shirt with a swastika patch on it, said the group’s goal is to create a homeland for white people. … Mullet said his group’s current headquarters is in Athol, Idaho, but it doesn’t have the attributes of a real compound. If they can find the right building in John Day, he said, they will be able to provide barracks and space for training recruits, as well as a place for meetings and gatherings/Scotta Callister, Blue Mountain Eagle. More here.

Question: Anyone going to shed a tear if these guys pull up stakes from Athol and head to John Day, Ore.?

Men deny hate crime allegations

Three brothers accused of harassing a Coeur d’Alene man because of his ethnicity say they simply asked to buy electrical equipment from the man and were stunned when he pulled a gun on them.

Ira Gino Tankovich, 47, Frank James Tankovich, 46, and William Michael Tankovich Jr., 49, (left to right) were indicted by a grand jury under Idaho’s hate crime law.

In court Friday, their lawyers characterized the Aug. 16 incident as a misunderstanding blown out of proportion after Aryan literature was distributed in Coeur d’Alene.

“I can’t see this case surviving a trial,” said Daniel Cooper, public defender for Frank Tankovich. “I just can’t fathom a jury returning a conviction.”

Read my story here.

Idaho Aryan well-known in Montana

What a difference a letter makes.

Police reports spelled the name of one of the neo-Nazis cited for littering last summer as “Kevin B. McGurre.”

Turns out, it’s “Kevin B. McGuire.”

I realized this when putting together this story on charges being dropped against the Aryan Nations members cited for littering. Coincidently, I got a call from the Montana Human Rights Network later that day alerting me to the error and to McGuire’s reputation in the Big Sky State as a hate monger.

McGuire, 27 (right); Paul R. Mullet, 36; and Todd N. Weston, 32, each faced four misdemeanor citations related to the distribution of Aryan Nations fliers in Coeur d’Alene.

The fliers that drew the littering charges featured a white woman and the phrase “Love your white race” and included contact information for the Aryan Nations. Fliers distributed in the past have depicted a girl asking her father what he did during the “revolution” and asking “Where have all the White people gone daddy?” and “Why did those dark men take mommy away?”

McGuire still faces a trespassing charge in Kootenai County District Court after he was arrested in August outside Jimmy C’s bar in Athol. Bar patrons said he’d been making racist comments, but McGuire told Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies they only wanted him to leave “because I’m white,” according to court documents.

McGuire unsuccessfully ran for the Bozeman school board in 2005, criticizing schools for discriminating against European-Americans, according to the Montana Human Rights Network. He’s also been tied to the distribution of racist literature there, according to the network, and organized a protest against a parade on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2005.

According to a 2005 profile in the Bozeman Chronicle, McGuire was born in Santa Rosa and earned an associate’s degree in electronic technology from Santa Rosa Junior College.

He wrote an anti-Semitic opinion piece for the student newspaper and started a chapter of the white separatist group the National Alliance in Montana, according to the article.

SC: Aryans Laughing At Reaction

Shoshone Conservative: While I certainly agree that hate and racism should be condemned, I think the officials here are over-reacting a bit. I am sure in some trailer park somewhere there are 3 Richard Butler wannabes rolling on the floor laughing at how they got the who’s-who of Spokane and Kootenai Counties to hold a large press conference, simply by throwing their nonsense literature in a few yards. The wannabes wanted attention, and they got it.

Question: Do you agree with Shoshone Conservative that the 3 racists who prompted the conference of political and police officials at stateline by circulating hate literature are laughing their heads off?

Officials promise ‘boldness’ against Aryans

Criminal citations and civil lawsuits are options. But the recent surge in racist activity is best dealt with by a unified community dedicated to rejecting discrimination and hate, leaders from across the Inland Northwest said Friday.

“We have been vested with the authority and the power to take action and I assure you I will use that power and authority to take a stronger stance of boldness,” said Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. “People who are hateful are bold. But standby to standby, because we are more bold than they are.”

City leaders and law enforcement cities and towns around the region gathered with the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations to respond to racist fliers that have been distributed in the region since April.

Read my story and check out photos from the event here.

Mullet’s full statement can be read by clicking on the link below. Warning, the content could be considered offensive.

Tony, Sgt. C @ Anti-Aryan Shout Out

Tony Stewart, right, longtime human rights activist in Coeur d’Alene, speaks to the media alongside Sgt. Christie Wood of the Coeur d’Alene Police about racist literature and other activities at a press conference Friday, near the state line. A press conference was held by law enforcement and human rights organizers to combat the recent distribution of racist flyers. (Jesse Tinsley/SR)

INorthwest Officials Denounce Racism

Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick emphasizes her department’s commitment to protecting citizens from racist harrassment at a press conference Friday, near the state line. A press conference was held by law enforcement and human rights organizers to combat the recent distribution of racist flyers. (Jesse Tinsley/SR)

“We have been vested with the authority and the power to take action and I assure you I will use that power and authority to take a stronger stance of boldness,” said Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. “People who are hateful are bold. But standby to standby, because we are more bold than they are.” Meghann M. Cuniff/SR story here.

Question: Are Inland Northwest officials reacting appropriately or over-reacting to the attempt by 3 outsiders to resurrect the Aryan Nations presence in North Idaho?

Racists Becoming More Active

A vandalized sign outside the office of Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., is shown earlier this month in Smyrna, Ga. Scott had a contentious community meeting on health care last week. Scott, who is black, said the swastika is the latest example of what he believes is an increasingly hateful and racist debate over reforming health care. The Atlanta lawmaker said he also has received mail in recent days that used N-word references to him, and that characterized President Barack Obama as a Marxist. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Question: At this moment, council representatives, police chiefs, and the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations are meeting at the stateline to denounce recent distribution of Aryan Nations literature in area yards. Are you confident that the task force will be able to come up with a good approach to countering any renewal of a racist presence here?

Aryans move to Athol

Not that there’s ever an appropriate place for the Aryan Nations, but if they’re going to insist on calling a North Idaho town home, a place called Athol seems a bit fitting. 

(This is not an affront to the fine people of the tiny town off Highway 95, rather, a nod to the self-deprecating merchandise sold there.)

The racist literature that’s been distributed in Coeur d’Alene the last couple of months resurfaced Saturday, but police caught the men doing it and ticketed them for littering.

The ringleader is not Jerald O’Brien but Paul Mullet, who made a reputation as a neo-Nazi in Minnesota. He told me he didn’t think O’Brien was doing enough for the Aryan movement and cut ties with him.

Read my story here.

Aryan Nations Hate Children Live On

(Warning: Objectionable language) An organization that tracks hate groups says records show there are more such groups now than ever before. In an effort to help determine why, KOMO News got an exclusive interview with a member of the Aryan Nations and with those determined to stop the hate. Jerald O’Brien stamped his skin with symbols of the Aryan Nations. “We alone are his children,” he said. He named his daughter “Berlin.” “Hitler was a great man,” O’Brien said. And he hears the battle cry of a brotherhood in a race war. “Now we have a slave reigning over us,” he said, referring to President Barack Obama. And when O’Brien looks at the headstone of Pastor Richard Butler in a Coeur d’Alene, Idaho cemetery: “I promised Pastor (Richard Butler, pictured) and my father, who art in heaven, that I would not let this die and I won’t lose my faith”/KOMO. More here.

Question: The Southern Poverty Law Center gives three reasons for the rise of hate groups: Exploitation of the illegal immigration issue, the crumbling economy and the historic election of Barack Obama. Are you surprised that hate groups are taking advantage of current circumstances?