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Edgar Steele dies in prison at age 69

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) — Edgar Steele, who once represented Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler in a lawsuit that bankrupted the white supremacist group, has died in federal prison in California. Steele was 69. Steele was serving a 50-year sentence at the federal prison in Victorville, California, after he was convicted of plotting to kill his wife. The prison website listed him as dying on Thursday. No other details were immediately available. Steele's wife, Cyndi, never believed that her husband was involved in a murder-for-hire scheme. But a Boise jury convicted Steele of four felonies for paying his handyman to kill Steele's wife and mother-in-law with a car bomb. Butler hired the northern Idaho attorney in 2000 to defend Aryan Nations from a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Edgar Steele files malpractice lawsuit against his lawyers

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A north Idaho attorney convicted in an unsuccessful murder-for-hire scheme has filed a malpractice lawsuit aimed at the lawyers who represented him in his federal trial. Sixty-eight-year-old Edgar Steele was convicted in 2011 for hiring a handyman to plant a car bomb to kill Steele's wife and her mother. Steele is the former attorney for the founder of the Aryan Nations and is serving a 50-year term in prison. In a lawsuit filed in Ada County, the Idaho Statesman reports (http://bit.ly/1bByhb4 ) that Steele complains his trial defense was impaired specifically by the malpractice of Robert McAllister of Denver. One month after Steele's conviction, McAllister was disbarred and convicted on fraud charges. Steele argues McAllister was too clouded and distracted by his own legal problems to be an effective lawyer.

9th Circuit rejects Edgar Steele’s appeal

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 today. “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; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Steele witness sentenced for car theft

A key defense witness for imprisoned murder-for-hire plotter Edgar Steele has been sentenced to prison in Washington for stealing cars.

Daryl J. Hollingsworth, 41, pleaded guilty this week to two counts of second-degree taking a motor vehicle without permission and was sentenced to 22 months in prison.

The charges stem from Hollingsworth stealing cars July 5, 2010 and June 22, 2009. Hollingsworth has at least 13 previous felony convictions, including for theft, forgery, second-degree kidnapping and second-degree robbery.

He was in the Bonner County Jail when he met Steele, who was awaiting trial on federal charges alleging he'd hired Sagle-area handyman Larry Fairfax to kill his wife, Cyndi Steele.

Hollingsworth testified at Steele's trial in Boise last year that he was asked by Fairfax to design the cover of his book to include a “picture of Larry Fairfax's logging truck running over an Aryan Nations member.”

Steele was a lawyer for the Aryan Nations in a 2000 lawsuit that bankrupted the racist group. Holllingsworth said he also was asked to include a picture of an FBI agent stabbing Fairfax in the back.

The testimony was aimed at discrediting Fairfax, but a jury convicted Steele on all charges in May 2011. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison in November and is being housed at a maximum-security prison in Victorville, Calif.

Fairfax is scheduled to be released from prison at the end of this month on weapons charges related to a pipe bomb he planted on Cyndi Steele's car.

Hollingsworth is in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to a state prison.

Related:

June 30: Oldtown chop shop has Spokane ties

Edgar Steele: I didn’t defecate myself

Before he was sentenced to 50 years in prison Wednesday, Edgar Steele told the court he wanted his lawyer at trial to show jurors the underwear he was wearing when he was arrested to dispute FBI claims that he may have defecated himself. 

Steele said Robert McAllister, who has since been disbarred for unrelated reasons, refused, and Steele criticized the move as stifling a chance to show jurors at his murder-for-hire trial last spring that lead investigator and FBI agent Mike Sotka “was a liar.”

Under questioning from prosecutors during the trial in Boise last spring, Sotka said Steele stood up and an “odor of fecal matter” filled the air when FBI agents told him they knew of the murder plot.

The agents “feared that Mr. Steele had defecated himself,” Sotka said, though he never said they verified Steele did so. The FBI had told Steele his wife and mother-in-law had been killed in a ruse to observe his reaction before his arrest in June 2010.

On Wednesday, Steele said he began to suspect something was not right when the agents told him his mother-in-law had been shot to death.

“I did smell something, and it wasn't the odor of defecation - one of many lies (FBI agent Mike) Sotka told to the jury,” Steele said. “I have the underwear I was wearing that day…hasn't been washed…I couldn't get McAllister to bring them in to show Sotka was a liar.”

Steele also took issue with Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan telling the court he had liposuction after his heart surgery. Whelan said undergoing the procedure shows Steele wasn't bed-ridden and incapable after the surgery. Steele said the procedure wasn't “frivolous” and was done because he was self conscious about his breast size.

The FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office disputes Steele's claims of lies and corruption.

“Mr Steele was targeted for investigation, convicted at trial and sentenced to prison ebcause of his own criminal conduct, and for no other reason,” according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Casino Rev: Uneven Sentences

Casino Reverend: “Why does Eddie Steele get 50 years in the slammer, for his arranging of a murder-for-hire? Given his age of 66 this might as well be a life sentence! Karl the Klubber is walking free currently and looking at 6-8 years in the slammer for the death of schizophrenic Otto Zehm? It seems like the sentences are backwards.”

DFO: One guess I'd make re: discrepancy in sentences. Edgar Steele was sentenced in hard-on-crime Idaho. Karl Thompson isn't.

Question: Anyone care to take a crack at Casino Reverend's puzzler?

Steele gets 50 years in murder plot

Former attorney for the Aryan Nations Edgar Steele was sentenced to 50 years in prison today for a foiled murder-for-hire plot that targeted his wife and mother-in-law, reports S-R reporter Meghann Cuniff from Coeur d'Alene, who reports that Steele gave an hour-and-a-half-long rant to the court, calling case a vast conspiracy by the federal government, the Anti-Defamation league, and the Russian mafia to silence him for his political views and legal work. “I, too, am a victim. My entire family is a victim. In fact, all of American society is a victim in this case,” declared Steele, 66. U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill said it’s “human temptation” to respond to claims about government corruption but it’s best not to. In Steele’s case, “a conspiracy can only be found if you ignore the facts and your world view dictates that there’s a conspiracy everywhere,” Winmill said; you can read Cuniff's full report here at spokesman.com.
  

Edgar Steele Gets 50-Year Sentence

Edgar Steele was sentenced to 50 years in prison today for a foiled murder-for-hire plot that targeted his wife and mother-in-law. In an hour and a half rant before Judge B. Lynn Winmill, Steele called the case a vast conspiracy by the federal government, the Anti-Defamation league, and the Russian mafia to silence him for his political views and legal work. “I, too, am a victim. My entire family is a victim. In fact, all of American society is a victim in this case.”” said Steele, 66, and a self-described “attorney for the damned” who represented Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler. “I am not delusional. I am a well educated professional with a long track record of honesty.” Winmill said it’s “human temptation” to respond to claims about government corruption but it’s best not to/Meghann Cuniff, SR. More here.

Question: How many years should Steele be put in prison?

Judge denies Steele’s new-trial motion

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A federal judge has denied Edgar Steele's motion for a new trial.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill denied the motion in an order filed today. Read his 18-page ruling here.

Steele, 65, is to be sentenced Wednesday by Winmill in Coeur d'Alene. Prosceutors are seeking 50 years in prison.

A jury in Boise convicted him of four felonies May 5 for paying his handyman, Larry Fairfax, in silver to kill his wife and mother-in-law with a car bomb so he could spend time with a young Ukrainian woman he met online.

Steele's been in jail since his arrest in June 2010. Fairfax is serving 27 months for placing a pipe bomb under Cyndi Steele's car and not telling authorites.

 “To plan the murder of an innocent spouse is unthinkably heartless,” federal prosecutors Marc Haws and Traci Whelan wrote in a sentencing recommendation in U.S. District Court. “To manipulate a financially desperate neighbor to commit the murder with a violent car bomb explosion is depraved.”

Prosecutors compared Steele, a former lawyer to Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler and the self-described “attorney for the damned,” to  Raskolnikov, the main character in Fyodor Dostoyevski’s novel “Crime and Punishment.”

“In his plotting, Edgar Steele seems modeled on Raskolnikov: too far above the law, and too smart to get caught,” prosecutors wrote.

Read more from the sentencing recommendation here.

Steele is to be sentenced at 9 a.m. Check spokesman.com for updates, and follow me on Twitter.

KXLY: Edgar Steele’s Last Stand

“I always thought I'd like to end my career with one big case involving real government tyranny and genuine wrong-doing that you can point to and people would be marching in the streets,” Steele said. “Lo and behold — ironically — I've almost got the case and its mine.” Steele made a name for himself ten years ago, representing those on the fringe. He represented the McGuckins, a North Idaho family whose children held government agents at bay with guns and guard dogs for days on end. He also represented the Aryan Nations in a civil case that bankrupt the movement. You can't talk to Steele without hearing his views on race.”People live in North Idaho and they're here for the weather, they're here for the lack of population, they're here for the good shopping, they're here for the transportation,” he explained. “Those are acronyms, code words, for living apart from other races. I don't use those code words. I just say I prefer to have my family live somewhere that is not riddled with the crime that comes with Mexicans and blacks living all around you”/Melissa Luck, KXLY. More here.

Question: Do you feel sorry for Edgar Steele?

Feds want Ed Steele to serve 50 years

A North Idaho attorney convicted of hiring a hitman to kill his wife should  spend 50 years in prison for his “chillingly calculated” crimes, prosecutors said in recent court filings.

Edgar J. Steele, 65, is to be sentenced Nov. 9 at 9 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene. A jury convicted him of four felonies May 5 after a two-week trial in Boise for paying his handyman, Larry Fairfax, in silver to kill his wife and mother-in-law with a car bomb so he could spend time with a young Ukrainian woman he met online.

 “To plan the murder of an innocent spouse is unthinkably heartless,” federal prosecutors Marc Haws and Traci Whelan wrote in a 13-page sentencing memorandum filed Oct. 24 in U.S. District Court. “To manipulate a financially desperate neighbor to commit the murder with a violent car bomb explosion is depraved.”

Prosecutors compared Steele, a former lawyer to Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler and the self-described “attorney for the damned,” to  Raskolnikov, the main character in Fyodor Dostoyevski's novel “Crime and Punishment.”

“In his plotting, Edgar Steele seems modeled on Raskolnikov: too far above the law, and too smart to get caught,” prosecutors wrote.

Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, (pictured with attorney Wesley Hoyt after the verdict in May) believes he is innocent and a victim of a government conspiracy to silence him.

Fairfax secretly recorded Steele discussing the plot but was arrested after Steele was because Cyndi Steele found a pipe bomb under her car that Fairfax had affixed weeks earlier.

 Fairfax told FBI agents he didn't tell them about the bomb because it was rigged not to work and was no longer attached to the vehicle, but testimony at trial showed otherwise. Fairfax was sentenced in May to 27 months in prison.

Steele's lawyer Robert McAllister was disbarred in Colorado shortly after the trial for ethical violations unrelated to Steele's case, including misusing client money. In a motion for a new trial, McAllister has said he was ineffective as Steele's counsel during trial because he was distracted by his pending disbarment.

The motion has not yet been ruled on by the court.

Steele's new lawyer, Wesley Hoyt, did not return a phone call seeking comment today.

The minimum sentences for each of Steele's convictions - use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire, use of explosive materials to commit a federal felony, possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence and tampering with a victim - is 40 years.

But prosecutors say such a sentence “would not adequately reflect the totality of the Defendant's actions in plotting to kill his wife, commissioning pipe bombs and obstructing or tampering with a witness into consideration; it would punish him only for the use of an explosive or destructive device.”

They are recommending U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill sentence Steele to 600 months in prison, or 50 years.

Prosecutors said Steele had opportunities to change his mind but because “heartlessly more insistent” that Fairfax (pictured) “get this job done” by any means, including a gun shot or car crash. (Federal agents actually told Steele his wife had been run off the road in a ruse just before his arrest. They say he stood up and a fecal matter filled the air when they told him they actually knew of the murder plot.)

In the sentencing memorandum, prosecutors include several quotes from Steele's recording with Fairfax prior to his arrest. A sampling: “Go get, get this job done, Larry.” “Okay, I'm counting on it. I mean, Larry I am really up against it, it has to happen right now.” “Well, you better not get your f**king ass caught.”

Prosecutors also quoted Steele discussing the need for Fairfax to make sure Cyndi Steele dies because he doesn't want to take care of a paraplegic.

“These few, chilling words from Steele's own heart, mind and mouth establish the outrageous circumstances of his offenses,” prosecutors wrote.

Steele had no previous criminal record and was a long-time attorney handling civil cases. Steele has said his ideologies and defense of racists like Butler motivated his prosecution, but prosecutors say “nothing could be further from the truth.”

“His ideologies were no reason to bring this case, and his ideologies were no dissuasion from bringing this case,” prosecutors wrote. “Incarceration is warranted in this case, not because of what Edgar Steele's ideologies re, nor because of who Edgar Steele is, but because of what he did to commit these crimes.”

Steele asks for new murder-plot trial

The recently disbarred lawyer who defended North Idaho attorney Edgar Steele at his murder-for-hire trial says he acted ineffectively because he was distracted by his own legal problems.

 Robert McAllister said his thinking process during Steele's trial in Boise, which ended with his conviction on all counts in May, was disrupted by the pending disbarment proceeding in Colorado, which stemmed from allegations that he embezzled money from clients.

“…I assumed I could perform was well as I had performed previously, not understanding the full extent that the prospect of disbarment would have on me,” McAllister wrote.

McAllister's statement is included in a 50-page motion for a new trial filed this week in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has until Sept. 12 to respond to the motion. A hearing before a judge has not been scheduled.

Steele, 65, is to be sentenced Nov. 14 for four felonies related to a plan to kill his wife with a pipe bomb strapped under her car by a handyman he'd hired as a hitman.

 Steele faces at least 30 years in prison; he's been in custody since his arrest in June 2010.

An 11-woman, 1 man jury convicted him May 5 after a two-week trial in Boise.

The motion, drafted by Steele's new lawyer, Wesley Hoyt, who once represented his wife and alleged victim, Cyndi Steele, calls for a new trial based on ineffective counsel and alleged prosecutorial and FBI misconduct, among other issues. (Hoyt and Cyndi Steele are pictured after a jury convicted Edgar in May.)

Hoyt said McAllister failed to subpoena audio expert George Papcun, whom Hoyt says would have provided crucial testimony regarding the authenticity of audio recordings in which Steele discusses the plot to kill his wife with hitman-turned-FBI informant Larry Fairfax. Papcun traveled to Bora Bora with his wife during the trial and was unable to testify.

Coeur d'Alene lawyer Gary Amendola blames McAllister for failing to secure Papcun's presence. He said he believes McAllister didn't properly prepare for the trial.

“His cross examination of witnesses called by the United States was disjointed and random and often did not get to the issue that needed to be addressed,” Amendola wrote. “His examination of witnesses called by the defense was equally weak, disjointed and random. He also paid little attention to directives from Edgar Steele.”
Amendola calls McAllister's closing argument “rambling and ineffective” and said he failed to address key legal issues, including those raised in jury instructions.

McAllistter took over the case from Roger Peven, executive director of the Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington and North Idaho. Hoyt alleged Peven provided ineffective counsel because he was “seriously distracted” by legal proceedings regarding alleged poor management of the office.

“Peven and McAllister stand as proverbial 'bookends' of ineffectiveness,” the motion reads.

Steele has said he is the victim of a government conspiracy to silence him because of his views on politics and race.

Steele describes himself as the “attorney for the damned” and says he defends the politically incorrect. He defended late Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler against the 2000 civil lawsuit from the Southern Poverty law Center that bankrupted the racist group.

The motion alleges non-government organizations like the SPLC and Anti-Defamation League pressured the U.S. Attorney's Office to prosecute Steele. U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson has said no one knew of Steele until Fairfax told the FBI he'd been hired to kill his wife.

The motion also said Steele's mental state was compromised “by his arrest, solitary confinement and sudden withdrawal of prescription pain medications” but his lawyers failed to explore the issue.

Edgar Steele disbarred in Washington

Idaho attorney Edgar Steele won’t be representing any Washington clients from his jail cell. 

The Washington Supreme Court suspended Steele Wednesday from practicing in the state pending disciplinary proceedings that could result in disbarment.

Steele faces at least 30 years in a federal prison for his May 5 conviction on four charges related to his attempt to have another man kill his wife and mother-in-law.

He is in the federal custody awaiting sentencing in August.

Until he commissioned a bogus hitman, Steele was best known for his unsuccessful defense of Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler.

Steele's lawyer, Robert McAlister, was recently disbarred in Colorado.

Edgar Steele’s lawyer disbarred in Colo.

The Colorado lawyer who defended Edgar Steele in his murder-for-hire case has been disbarred.

Robert T. McAllister agreed this week to give up his law license after he acknowledged misusing client funds on two occasions unrelated to Steele's case, according to a document signed in Colorado Supreme Court.

According to the document, which is available here, McAllister misused a $5,255.43 check while representing a company in a lawsuit. He also used $100,000 from another client, transferring $80,000 into his own account and $20,000 into an accounted owned by Steamboat Skyglass Lodge, LLC, an entity he controls.

McAllister was chief criminal deputy for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in District of Colorado and the Northern District of Illinois from 1976 to 1983.

Steele was represented by a public defender until supporters raised a reported $120,000 and McAllister took over. McAllister handled most of the questioning during Steele's trial in Boise last month, which ended with jurors convicting Steele on all charges

McAllister and co-counsel Gary Amendola have said they intend to ask for a new trial ; it's unclear how that will proceed now that McAllister is disbarred.

Amendola did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Lawyer Wesley Hoyt, who is working with Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, said he had no information.

“This is the first I've heard of it,” Hoyt said today. “I intend to look into the matter, and that's about all I can say.”

McAllister is described by the publication Law Week as one of Denver's most well-known defense lawyers. He could not be reached for comment.

Colorado Disbars Steele Attorney

The Colorado lawyer who defended Edgar Steele in his murder-for-hire case has been disbarred. Robert T. McAllister agreed to give up his law license after he acknowledged misusing client funds on two occasions unrelated to Steele's case, according to a document signed this week in Colorado Supreme Court. According to the document, McAllister misused a $5,255.43 check while representing a company in a lawsuit. He also used $100,000 from another client, transferring $80,000 into his own account and $20,000 into an accounted owned by Steamboat Skyglass Lodge, LLC, an entity he controls/Meghann Cuniff, Sirens & Gavels. More here.

Steele may sue over jail book policy

SANDPOINT, Idaho — A North Idaho attorney convicted by a federal jury for his role in a plot to kill his wife has filed a tort claim against Bonner County, alleging the jail’s policy for providing books to inmates violates his religious freedoms. 

Edgar Steele, 65, was convicted on four counts in U.S. District Court in Boise earlier this month in a murder-for-hire plot to kill his wife and mother-in-law last year.

He faces at least 30 years in prison and is being held in the Bonner County Jail pending sentencing scheduled for August. Steele, who once represented the Aryan Nations, is now taking aim at the jail’s book policy, claiming Bibles are the only religious texts delivered to inmates, a limitation he said infringes on his right to religious freedom.

Steele said he is a Taoist, a philosophical and religious tradition that emphasizes compassion, moderation and humility with roots in sixth century China.

In his claim, Steele also contends the jail essentially censors other inmate reading materials because they are passed out by chaplains and heavily influenced by Christian fundamentalist themes.

Read the rest of the Associated Press story here.

Document details Steele’s trial request

Edgar Steele's lawyers have 10 reasons he should receive a new trial, including alleged untimely production of Larry Fairfax's notes, errors in admitting the video tapped deposition of his alleged Ukrainian love interest, and newly discovered evidence about the viability of the explosive device.

Federal prosecutors listed the reasons in a document filed last week in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene in response to a sealed document by  defense lawyers Robert McAllister of Colorado and Gary Amendola of Coeur d'Alene that talks of intent to seek a new trial.

The defense document was filed a week after a jury in Boise convicted Steele of four felonies related to a plot to kill his wife and mother in law.

According to prosecutors, McAllister and Amendola included the following reasons:

1) Newly discovered evidence regarding Jeff Buck and the viability of the explosive device (from Fairfax's sentencing);
2) Defense was unable to secure the attendance of Dr. George Papcun to testify;
3) Contention that the Court erred in excluding the testimony of Dennis Walsh;
4) Alleged violation of attorney-client communication privilege;
5) Alleged untimeliness of production Fairfax’s “fictional book” notes;
6) Alleged error in allowing cross-examination of Cyndi Steele using the petition for divorce from 2000;
7) Alleged error of admitting the video tape deposition of Tatyana Loginova;
8) Alleged error in sustaining objections to testimony of Bob Stoll, DVM;
9) Allegations of error in sustaining Government objections during cross-examination of Larry Fairfax; and
10) Allegation of error in instructing the jury as to the second question of the jury during deliberations.

The sealed motion filed last week apparently was not an actual motion for anew trial - it asked for more time to file that motion.

Prosecutors objected to that request, saying the fact that the defense was able to list 10 reasons for a new trial seven days after the verdict was proof they didn't need more time.

But U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill gave the defense until June 30 to file final post-trial motions. Steele is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 22; he faces at least 30 years in prison.

Edgar Steele requests new trial

A North Idaho attorney convicted last week of hiring his handyman to kill his wife and mother-in-law has requested a new trial.

 Lawyers for Edgar J. Steele, 65, filed a motion for a new trial Thursday in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene.

The motion is sealed. Lawyer Robert McAllister, of Colorado, declined to discuss its contents, and Gary Amendola did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Steele faces at least 30 years in prison when he's sentenced in August.

A jury convicted him May 5 of use of interstate commerce to commission murder for hire, use of explosive material to commit a federal felony and tampering with a victim after a week-long trial in Boise.

The hitman-turned FBI informant, Larry Fairfax, was sentenced to 27 months in prison Wednesday for a pipe bomb he attached to Cyndi Steele's SUV.

Cyndi Steele believes her husband was framed because of his defense of clients like the late Richard Butler, founder of the Aryan Nations.

Did Cyndi Steele read Fairfax’s diary?

Edgar Steele's lawyers, Robert McAllister and Gary Amendola, obtained selections of Larry Fairfax's handwritten journal notes last week after U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued a ruling he now says was a mistake

Now prosecutors are investigating whether McAllister and/or Amendola orders by allowing Cyndi Steele to read those notes.

Cyndi Steele read a statement at Fairfax's sentencing Wednesday that Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan says contained information directly from Fairfax's notes.

Whelan said her office will investigate; Winmill said appropriate action will be taken if Steele's lawyer did violate the court order.

Fairfax (pictured) was sentenced to 27 months in prison Wednesday.

Read the rest of my story here.

Fairfax Gets 27 Months For Plot

A handyman hired by a North Idaho lawyer to kill his wife was sentenced today to 27 months in prison for an explosive device he strapped to the intended victim’s car. Larry Fairfax, 50, never told investigators about the pipe bomb when he said he’d been hired by Edgar Steele and agreed to secretly record conversations about the plot for the FBI, which led to Steele’s arrest June 11. Fairfax was arrested June 15 after Coeur d’Alene auto shop workers found the 12-inch bomb when Cyndi Steele arrived for a routine oil check. He told the FBI he’d put the device on the car in late May to make Edgar Steele think the plan was proceeding, but that he rigged the device so it couldn’t explode/Meghann M. Cuniff, SR. More here.

Clark: Cyndi Stands By Her Man

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“Stand by your Klan” by Doug Clark

Edgar Steele, former Aryan Nations shyster, was found guilty late last week of hiring some thug to blow his wife, Cyndi, (and her mother) to smithereens. Can’t say I didn’t see that train a’coming. I was a tad disappointed, however, to learn that the federal jurors in Boise didn’t also find Cyndi guilty of being the thickest brick on the planet. Far be it from me to pick on the victim of record. But Mrs. Steele’s misguided faith in her hubby is not just dumb, it’s Larry the Cable Guy dumb/Doug Clark, SR. More here.

Question: What advice would you give to Cyndi Steele?

Hucks: He Didn’t Steele My Heart

As a reporter assigned to cover the human-rights movement in Kootenai County back in the day, I dealt with racists, too. One gave me a swastika tiepin. Another crashed his junker into my parked car in the S-R Coeur d’Alene office lot. An erstwhile Aryan Nations security chief claimed I had incited a lethal attack against a German shepherd belonging to the late racist leader Richard Butler. Vincent Bertollini emailed. So did Edgar Steele, the ex-Aryan Nations lawyer convicted Thursday of trying to hire hits on his wife and mother-in-law. I dusted off a gem that Steele sent April 1, 1999. Addressed to “Oliveria-rhymes-with- diarrhea,” it reads in part: “You have done your best, bully that you are, to shut me up and silence others that feel as I do. You, of course, have a forum that we are denied. Don’t you ever wonder how you might do in a fair fight?”/DFO, Huckleberries. More here.

Jury convicts Edgar Steele on all counts

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Idaho U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson is pictured after the verdict. In back, from left to right, are two unidentified officials, Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan, FBI Special Agent Mike Sotka and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws. Above that photo is a slideshow of photos showing Edgar Steele through the years. 

BOISE – A North Idaho lawyer accused of plotting to kill his wife failed to persuade a federal jury that he was the victim of a government conspiracy to silence him.

The U.S. District Court jury of 11 women and one man Thursday convicted Edgar Steele of hiring handyman-turned-FBI-informant Larry Fairfax to kill his wife, Cyndi Steele, and mother-in-law.

Cyndi Steele, pictured with her attorney, Wesley Hoyt. vowed to appeal the verdict. She believes her husband was targeted because of his defense of unpopular clients.

Read the rest of my story here.

A previous version of the story with more than 20 reader comments is available here.

A no-contact order between the Steeles has been lifted, and they are free to visit in jail whenever visiting hours permit.

A background piece on Steele is available here.

Steele was convicted of the following felonies:
1. Use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission for murder (for directing Larry Fairfax to drive to Oregon to kill his wife.) Punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
2. Aiding and abetting use of explosive material to commit a federal felony (for a pipe bomb Fairfax strapped to Edgar Steele's car at Steele's direction so authorities would think his wife's killer also targeted him.) Punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
3. Aiding and abetting possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence (for the pipe bomb on Cyndi Steele's SUV.) Punishable by a minimum 30 years in prison.
4. Tampering with a victim (for a phone call he made to Cyndi Steele after his arrest). Punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
  

Steele convicted on all four counts

A federal jury in Boise has returned its verdict, and North Idaho lawyer Edgar Steele has been convicted on all four counts in a murder-for-hire plot. You can read S-R reporter Meghann Cuniff's full story here at spokesman.com.

Jury in Steele case asks to deliberate late

Eleven women and one man will continue deliberating Thursday in the murder-for-hire trial of Edgar J. Steele in U.S. District Court in Boise.

Deliberations began about 2:45 p.m. Wednesday and ended about 7 p.m. The jury asked to hear the recordings and tapes played at trial, and told Judge B. Lynn Winmill they wanted to deliberate late.
 
Steele, 65, faces at least 30 years in prison if convicted of his most serious charge - possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence.
 
Steele also is charged with use of interstate commerce to commission murder for hire, use of explosive material to commit a federal felony and tampering with a victim.
 
Steele's supporters say he has been framed by the government to silence him for his views and legal work. Steele calls himself “the attorney for the damned” and defended the Aryan Nations against the lawsuit that bankrupted the racist group in 2000. Steele also wrote a book called Defensive Racism.
 
His wife and alleged victim, Cyndi Steele, believes he is innocent.

S&G: Prosecutor Rests In Steele Case

Though Edgar Steele's fingerprints are not on pipe bomb that was trapped under his wife's car, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws told jurors in his closing argument that the 65-year-old North Idaho lawyer's “legal fingerprints” are all over it. Haws played portions of the recordings in which Steele discusses the plot to kill Cyndi Steele with his handyman, Larry Fairfax, whom he'd promised money to murder his wife and mother-in-law. He said jurors are to be more skeptical of Fairfax's testimony because of his involvement in the case, but that everything Fairfax has said is supported by other evidence/Meghann Cuniff, Sirens & Gavels.  More here.

Question: Any predictions re: the verdict?

Steele’s defense points to Fairfax set up

There's no doubt that the federal government has evidence in its case against Edgar Steele, his lawyer says, but all that evidence points back to Larry Fairfax, who claims to have been hired by Steele to kill his wife and mother-in-law.

The pipe bomb strapped to Cyndi Steele's SUV was Fairfax's “act of defiance,” Robert McAllister said, referring to a book Fairfax has said he wants to write. 
 
He reminded jurors that Cyndi Steele said there were problems with the recordings in which her husband discussed the plot to kill her with Fairfax, such as unexplained breaks and syntax issues. 
 
“There is one conclusion about those recordings: they are nothing but tar,” McAllister said. “…It's fantasy talk; it's fiction; it's Larry Fairfax talking and trying to set up Edgar Steele.”
 
“Unfortunately in real life, this is more than just trying to write a book, it's putting people's lives in danger,” McAllister said
 
He emphasized that Fairfax admits to attaching a pipe bomb to Cyndi Steele's SUV but didn't tell the FBI about it when he told them he could set up Edgar Steele.
 
“No one knows that until June 15, when it's found,” he said. 
 
McAllister said Steele had no reason to want his wife dead. Claims by the prosecution that Steele was in love with a woman he met on the Internet are wrong  - the communication was part of Steele's examination of the Russian bride scam.
 
“The whole Russian bride scam was a case, something to work on. It was something his family laughed about, because it was so fake,” McAllister said. “It's fantasy… it's not a motive to commit murder. it's not a reason to commit murder.”
 
He said the Steeles talked regularly on the phone, including a 43-minute conversation the day before prosecutors say Cyndi was to be killed. McAllister also reminded jurors that Edgar Steele recently paid $2,779 to save his mother-in-law's home.
 
“If there's really a plot or a plan, do you go take that kind of money and give it to someone else, who you're supposedly going to kill?” McAllister said.
 
“The evidence in this case is that he loves Cyndi Steele, that he spent 25 years - now 26 - married to her with three children,” McAllister said.
 
He said the couple did have problems 10 years ago, but “the evidence in the next 10 years is that they raised their family” lived in North Idaho and were happy.
 
“Never did Edgar Steele show anything besides love for his family,” McAllister said. He pointed to the longtime friends who told jurors how shocked they were by the allegations.
 
He said the phone call Steele made to his wife from the jail doesn't qualify as victim tampering. Cyndi Steele has said she wasn't influenced by the call, and Edgar Steele didn't know of the specifics of the recordings when he called Cyndi Steele.
 
“Yes she doesn't believe that her husband is trying harm her, but she doesn't know about what Mr. Fairfax or what (his cousin) Mr. (James) Maher might want to do to her,” McAllister said. “All she knows is a bomb was found under her car.”
 
“I'm sure the government will say 'she's in denial, she's wrong,' but the fact is this is the victim…coming before a jury and saying 'I don't believe it.'”

Defense rests; Ed Steele doesn’t testify

Defense lawyers in the Edgar Steele murder-for-hire trial rested their case this morning without calling Steele to the stand.

Lawyers are working on jury instructions now. Closing arguments are expected today. 
 
Prosecutors predicted their argument will take an hour. Steele's defense said they will take about 45 minutes.

Fairfax to call book ‘An Act of Defiance’

Larry Fairfax, the main witness in the Edgar Steele murder-for-hire trial, plans to write a book based on the case called “An Act of Defiance: Built on Lies and Deceit by the FBI.”

Daryl Hollingsworth, who met Fairfax and Steele in the Bonner County Jail, testified this morning that he was asked by Fairfax to design the cover and include a “picture of Larry Fairfax's logging truck running over an Aryan Nations member.” Steele was a lawyer for the Aryan Nations in a 2000 lawsuit that bankrupted the racist group.
 
Holllingsworth said he also was asked to include a picture of an FBI agent stabbing Fairfax in the back.
 
Fairfax told defense lawyer Robert McAllister the “defiant act” referred to in the title as him “going against Edgar Steele and turning him in.”
 
In his notes, Fairfax said he plans to call the book fiction.
 
Fairfax writes about how he became a victim in the case and that the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office “screwed me over” by charging him with two federal firearms felonies related to the device.
 
 McAllister asked Fairfax if he designed the book so that he would be the hero, but Fairfax said that wasn't the case.
 
“You actually describe yourself as the victim,” McAllister said. “You make statements about how you should not be in jail, and you make statements about how you're gong to save the life of Cyndi Steele.” 
 
Fairfax agreed. 
 
McAllister pointed out that Fairfax told the FBI of the device only after it was discovered, and that he “never made any effort to take it off” Cyndi Steele's car. 
 
Fairfax also described in the notes how the explosive device “never would have worked.”
 
He also writes that him being in jail is a “waste of an innocent life.”
 
Court is on a break. It's not yet known if Edgar Steele will testify. Cyndi Steele met with him and was extremely emotional afterward. Steele's supporters held a prayer circle before returning to the courtroom.

Edgar, Cyndi Steele allowed to meet today

 

Edgar Steele will be allowed to visit with his wife and alleged victim today before deciding if he will testify today in his murder—for-hire trial in U.S. District Court in Boise.
 
Steele's lawyer, Robert McAllister, said his client requested the meeting. 
 
“At this time i think it's appropriate that he get a chance to consult with his wife about decisions in this case,” McAllister said.
 
Edgar and Cyndi Steele have have been allowed to meet in jail once a week since last fall, but they have been prohibited from discussing the case.
 
Prosecutors objected to the request because they may recall Cyndi Steele as a reputable witness if Edgar testifies, and they fear he may try to influence her.
 
But Judge B. Lynn Winmill said he saw no reason not to allow the couple to meet for 10-15 minutes with defense lawyers present. 
 
Winmill said his decision was based on the unusual circumstance of Cyndi Steele not believing the government's case and supporting her husband.
 
“It's a very unique situation for that reason,” Winmill said. “I guess I just see no purpose in maintaining no contact order.”
 
Physical contact is prohibited.