Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

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.


June 30: Oldtown chop shop has Spokane ties

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

Get Adobe Flash player

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.

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."

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.

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.

Judge reviewing Fairfax’s jail writings

A federal judge is reviewing Larry Fairfax's handwritten notes to determine if defense lawyers in Edgar Steele's murder-for-hire case are entitled to the material.

Judge B. Lynn Winmill said this morning that he erred when he ordered prosecutors to obtain the 238 pages of notes last week.

Prosecutors had objected to Winmill's request, saying they are not evidence under federal case law. Winmill now says he made a mistake.

But because Winmill forced prosecutors to obtain the notes, Steele's lawyer, Robert McAllister, argued they needed to be provided to the defense.

Winmill said today that he'll review the notes and give the defense relevant material. He said "relevant" will be defined broadly. Court is on an extended break while Winmill looks at the notes.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan agreed that because the material was now with the prosecution because of Winmill's order, the notes were subject to review.

"It's not something I want to see, but it's not something we can undo," she said.

Whelan said the notes contain Fairfax's thoughts on the case, his lawyer, his love for his wife and children, his concerns about how they'll survive financially and other personal matters.

Fairfax's lawyer, John Miller, emphasized that no one has been subpoenaed for the material. He said the defense mentioning the book in court without having even seen it as part of a tactic.

Miller said the notes are "really almost a diary."

"It's his daily rantings and ravings from the time he was arrested," Miller said.

He said the notes contain private thoughts, including prayers and opinions on Miller, Whelan and other court officials. "It should not have been reviewed by anyone," Miller said.

McAllister said he didn't subpoena the notes before trial because he didn't know they existed until Fairfax referenced them in cross examination last week.

"It's ironic that the government is using the writings of my client while in jail while attempting to convict him, then refusing to provide to me the writings of the main witness," McAllister said.

McAllister said Fairfax's notes about the case could be crucial to Steele's defense.

"I can't think of better material for impeachment than that," he said.

Old friend of Steele’s describes shock

A longtime friend of Edgar Steele told jurors that he was "shocked" when he learned of Steele's arrest and never saw Steele threaten or harm anyone in the more than 40 years he's known him.

Jeff Miller, a partner with George's Cyclotron Inc., who also works with Hendry Ranch Wines in Napa Valley, Calif., said he met Steele through a mutual friend in the late 1960s or early 1970s in the San Francisco area.

Their families socialized, and Steele's children still refer to Miller as "Uncle Jeff," he told jurors. Miller said he met Cyndi Steele a year or two before she married Edgar, and that he's never known Steele to threaten or harm his wife or children.

"Ed is a very strict parent, as am I. So sometimes you come down on the kids. But that's our job," Miller said.

He said he learned of Steele's arrest when Steele's son, Rex, called him.

"It was quite a shock," Miller said. Miller said he didn't know of the Steeles' divorce petition in 2000 until Sunday night.

Under cross examination by prosecutors, Miller acknowledged that he didn't know of the Steeles' marriage problems and that Edgar Steele never confided to him that he was looking for women on Match.com.

Miller said Steele once tried to enlist his help with research into the Russian bride scam. He said Steele called and asked him to go to a website and find a particular person, and that it would cost him "a couple hundred dollars."

But Miller's wife told him it wasn't a good idea. "I called him back that same day and told him my wife wouldn't let me do it," Miller said.

Also testifying this morning was a Sagle, Idaho, man who traveled with Fairfax to check on a pipe bomb attached to Cyndi Steele's SUV.

James Maher, Fairfax's cousin, told jurors today that he spent about 10 seconds trying to see if the device was still there.

Maher said he couldn't get under the 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor because neighbors near the Oregon City, Ore., home of Steele's mother-in-law were watching.

Maher said he wanted to see if the pipe bomb was gone "because I thought Cyndi Steele was a really nice lady."

Maher admitted that Fairfax once said something about appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show. "That was like an over-the-top thing," Maher said. "But yeah, I thought it might work out for him; I don't know."

But, Maher added, "there was no braggery involved."

He said Fairfax said he couldn't check himself because Cyndi Steele might see him. "Then the jig would be up," Maher said.

Steele jurors hear from Ukrainian woman

Edgar Steele told a 25-year-old Ukrainian woman after his arrest on murder-for-hire charges that the Anti-Defamation League had manufactured a recording of him plotting to kill his wife using a collection of secret recordings by Larry Fairfax and thousands of hours of online audio files. 

Steele wrote in a letter to Tatyana Loginova that the case against him began when Fairfax stole $45,000 in silver, though prosecutors have shown jurors that Steele cashed in about that same amount of silver a couple months before his arrest.

"This has been a huge shock to me but not really a surprise; they have been after me for a long time because of my outspoken criticism" of the federal government and U.S. power brokers, Steele wrote Loginova.

FBI Special Agent Brent Smith, who is based in the Ukraine, read from the letter this morning in U.S. District Court in Boise, the fourth day of testimony in Steele's murder-for-hire trial.

Smith helped with Loginova's deposition in the Ukraine. Loginova declined to travel to the United States to testify, and because she is not a U.S. citizen, she could not be forced to appear.

In a deposition taped in early March, Loginova, through a  translator, said she met Steele through an online dating website, exchanged emails and learned about his personal life.

"Did he ever tell you if he had kids?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan asked.

"Yes, he did. They told me that they don't live with him though. He told me that he lives alone," Loginova said through a  translator.

Steele wrote that Loginova could find work, "take care of our babies, make love to me, whatever would make you happy."

He said he was trying to get his children to mail her a package with a teddy bear, map of the area and other gifts.

"I begin to suspect that my ex may be behind all of this," Steele writes. "She knows that you are very special to me and I know that's why she has not sent your box as she promised me she would do."

Loginova said Steele planned to visit Ukraine in August 2010. 

She said the two began talking over Skype in May or early June.

Under cross examination, defense lawyer Gary Amendola emphasized that Loginova doesn't actually know if  Steele is the one who wrote the letter.

Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, testified last week that her husband was corresponding with Loginova and other women as part of his research into the Russian mail order bride scam.

The prosecution has rested. Judge Winmill has denied a defense motion to dismiss the charges against Steele.

The defense will begin presenting its case shortly. Steele's wife and daughter have attended each day of the trial. Hayden resident Deon Masker, wife of white supremacist Richard Masker, is at the trial for the first time today.

Experts dispute Fairfax’s claim re: bomb

This pipe bomb was attached to Cyndi Steele's car June 15 when she went to a Coeur d'Alene auto shop for a routine oil change. The photo was shown to jurors today in Edgar Steele's murder-for-hire trial.

BOISE - A Spokane County bomb expert said at Edgar Steele's murder-for-hire trial today that the pipe bomb attached to Cyndi Steele's SUV last June was capable of exploding and unlike any device he's seen.
"It's the largest pipe bomb that I've dealt with," said Sgt. Mike Kittilstved, head of the Spokane County bomb squad, which dismantled the device.
Though hitman-turned-informant Larry Fairfax has said he rigged the bomb so it wouldn't explode, Kittilstved and other experts said that's wasn't the case.
Kittilstved said the device contained "a significant amount" of powder.
"Definitely enough to ignite the device," he said.
Fairfax has said he cut the fuse in several places to prevent it from burning through.
But Agent Brennan Phillips, an explosives expert for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said the black tape on the device would still burn in place of the fuse.
"In fact, the tape will burn a little bit faster," he said.
Phillips said the construction of the device showed him that "certainly there's a desire to make sure this thing works," he said.
The bomb experts were today's last witnesses. 
The prosecution is expected to rest Monday after testimony from Steele's alleged European love interest.

Phone records back up Steele recordings

BOISE - Edgar Steele's lawyers have questioned the reliability of recordings that show their client discussing the plot to kill his wife with alleged hitman-turned-FBI-informant Larry Fairfax.

Prosecutors used phone records provided by the defense to poke a hole in that claim this morning.
Steele told his wife, Cyndi Steele, after his arrest that he expected investigators to provide a manufactured recording that combined several conversations into one.
In the recordings, which jurors listened to Wednesday, Fairfax calls Steele as he's driving to his Sagle-area home. 
A time-stamped record of that phone call is in records shown to jurors today by the defense. Lawyers were showing jurors the numerous and lengthy phone calls between the Steeles.
Cyndi Steele acknowledged the phone record but emphasized that she firmly believes her husband is innocent.
Steele's lawyer Robert McAllister mentioned his client's legal work with the Aryan Nations today while cross examining Cyndi Steele. 
Prosecutors objected, saying it isn't relevant, but Judge B. Lynn Winmill allowed the testimony. 
Cyndi Steele agreed with defense lawyer Robert McAllister that her husband had represented unpopular causes, including Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations and said her family has had previous threats made on their lives.
Steele has said she believes her husband was framed by the federal government.
Cyndi Steele also said she was helping her husband with his research into the Russian mail order bride scam. She agreed with McAllister that the emails her husband sent to the women amounted to cyber-space fantasy.
She agreed that Edgar is an "excellent writer" who was very capable of writing emails and sounding like "a love-sick teenager."
She said Edgar never threatened her or her mother and recently helped with her mother's mortgage before his arrest.
She said Edgar told her to go to Oregon to help her mother.
"He never objected," she said. "He was always sad to see me go, but he never objected."
Cyndi Steele's testimony has ended. 
Kevin Mitchell, who owns CoinNuts in Coeur d'Alene, testified briefly, telling jurors how he'd cashed in a large amount of silver for Edgar Steele in April. 
Josh Young, who was working at the Quik Lube in Coeur d'Alene when he spotted the pipe bomb under Cyndi's car, also briefly testified.
Mark Fox of the Spokane County Sheriff's Office bomb squad will continue testifying after the afternoon break. He helped dismantle the pipe bomb.

Cyndi says she knew of Edgar’s women

Get Adobe Flash player
Edgar Steele’s call to his son
Get Adobe Flash player
Edgar Steele’s call to his wife

These are portions of phone calls from the Kootenai County Jail that were played for jurors today in the murder-for-hire trial of Edgar Steele.

BOISE - Cyndi Steele testified today that she knew her husband was talking to European women online but said the communication was part of his research into Russian mail order brides.

She said the two often sat in his home office reading the correspondence from the women. "We would end up laughing together, because we didn't believe it was always the pretty girl behind the writings," she testified today, the second day of testimony in Edgar Steele's murder-for-hire trial. "It could be a man as far as we knew."
Cyndi Steele (pictured at a press conference last October) said she knew Edgar told the women he was divorced and wanted to have babies with them, though she admitted she didn't know he'd sent them pictures of their Talache Road home.
"I gave him the go ahead because I trusted him," she said. "He would let me read anything I wanted; I knew what he was sending…I knew all about it, and I knew it was a case, and I knew he saw a book in it."
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan emphasized that Cyndi Steele didn't read every email.
"He was lying to you, Cyndi,"  Whelan said. 
Cyndi Steele, the victim of the alleged murder plot, said she knew Edgar wrote to one of the women, Tatayna Loginova, from the jail confessing his love. Whelan questioned why he would continue to lie for research purposes while jailed on such serious federal charges.
Steele's testimony was interrupted repeatedly as prosecutors called for her responses to be stricken because they didn't address the questions. The final dispute arose just before scheduled adjournment at 2:30 .m., so attorneys for both sides will meet with Judge B. Lynn Winmill at 8:15 a.m. Friday to discuss. Cyndi Steele's testimony is expected to continue at 8:30 a.m.
Much of today's testimony focused on Edgar her husband's correspondence with other women and the couple's past marriage problems.
Steele and her mother owned a dance studio in San Francisco when her mother was injured in a car crash. Someone recommended they seek counsel from a law office. Edgar Steele had recently been hired there. The Steeles married in 1985. 
But by the late 1990s, Edgar Steele had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and his wife was experiencing "issues" that kept them apart, according to testimony. Cyndi Steele briefly sought a divorce in 2000 after creating a fake Match.com profile to see if Edgar, who advertised himself as single, would respond.
Whelan asked Cyndi Steele if the marriage was saved because Edgar Steele said he "merely wanted to try on other women but had decided that you were the one for him."
"That's a very small summary of it, but I'd say yes," Cyndi Steele said.
"Because he was so unhappy, he was looking to see if our home life was really what he wanted or if there was something better," she continued. "I think he was really questioning his life about everything."
Whelan then asked about this past year, when Cyndi was splitting her time between Edgar's health problems in North Idaho and her mother's health problems in Oregon.
"It was very hard, because I need to be in both places," she said. "I had to go where the most emergency was…I had to weigh it, and it was hard to weigh it because I had two people who I very much loved who need me."
"I can understand why he felt I was maybe neglecting him," Cyndi said of Edgar. "I hadn't been getting enough of him, either." 
But she emphasized that the situation was "much different" than the problems that provoked the divorce petition 11 years ago.
Aftrer her husband's arrest, Cyndi Steele reported $45,000 in silver missing from the home and listed FBI informant Larry Fairfax as the suspect.
Defense lawyers say Fairfax set up Edgar to cover up his theft of silver from the Steeles.
But Whelan said today that Edgar had cashed about that same amount in silver last April. 
Cyndi said she was aware of that and factored it in when counting their silver.
Jurors heard phone calls Edgar Steele made to Cyndi and their son, Rex, from the Kootenai County Jail after his arrest that led to tampering with a witness charges.
Steele told his wife he feared she was seeing someone else.
"I'm only suffering because I love you and I'm not getting enough of you," he said.
He also urged her to stand "like a rhinoceros in the road" and tell authorities the voice on the recordings with Fairfax "was not my husband's voice." 
Cyndi Steele said she doesn't believe her husband was trying to unduly influence her in the call.
"He was trying to tell me he was innocent, and that's what he was standing up for," Cyndi Steele said. "He never asked me to lie, and he knows I would be upset if he wrongly went to prison."
In the phone call, Cyndi told Edgar that she rmembered him telling her to get out of his life after his surgery. Edgar said he made the comment while heavily medicated; Cyndi testified today that he didn't mean the comment.
"i don't count that as he wanted a divorce; he was extremely sick," she said 

Larry Fairfax says he’s writing a book

The main witness against Edgar Steele is writing a book he says is fiction and "may have" said he hopes to be on the Oprah show. 

Larry Fairfax (left) admitted that under cross examination this morning in U.S. District Court in Boise, the second day of testimony in Steele's murder-for-hire trial.

Steele's defense lawyer, Robert McAllister, said Bonner County Jail inmate Daryl Hollingsworth (right) was asked by Fairfax "if he could design the cover for your book."

"You kept it a secret from the FBI, secret from the government and secret from the defense, but you told Daryl Hollingsworth about it?" McAlliser said.

Fairfax said no one but Hollingsworth had inquired. He said Hollingsworth saw him writing in jail one day and asked what he was doing.

McAllister said Fairfax also told his cousin he planned to make himself out to be the hero in the book, but Fairfax denied that. McAllister also said Hollingsworth says Fairfax claimed he'd been paid to set up Steele.

Fairfax said Hollingsworth, who is in jail for stabbing someone in Sandpoint, had a reputation as a liar. 

Fairfax has said he was paid $10,000 in silver coins as a down payment for the murders. He said he gathered the coins from a desk drawer in Steele's garage, but McAllister implied that Fairfax actually stole it.

McAllister emphasized that Fairfax knew where the Steeles hid their silver and could "easily" remove it, but Fairfax said that wasn't true.

Cyndi Steele had filed a theft report regarding $45,000 in silver from their home. Fairfax was listed as the suspect, McAllister said. He denied taking the coins during testimony this morning.

Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan, Fairfax said the theft report was not filed until after Steele was arrested.

Fairfax said the stash spots he helped construct at Steele's home were for "stashing weapons when the economy collapsed and everyone was rioting." He said the spots were covered in drywall and not easily accessible.

McAllister questioned Fairfax about his bankruptcy filing and desire for money. He's said in his opening statement that Fairfax set up Steele to cover up his theft of silver.

"How many times do you think you lied to Edgar Steele?" McAllister asked.

"Maybe twice," Fairfax replied.

"What were those lies?" McAllister said.

"That I would kill his wife…(and) that I would kill his mother-in-law," Fairfax replied.

McAllister focused on statements Fairfax reportedly made regarding coming up with "a big lie."

Fairfax said that comment was in regards to a story he told his wife about why he was traveling to Portland. (Fairfax says he went there under FBI surveillance to make Steele believe he was following through with the murders.)

Fairfax's testimony just ended.

Fairfax says Steele rejected divorce idea

BOISE - When Larry Fairfax spoke with Edgar Steele about a plot to kill Steele's wife, he asked the North Idaho lawyer why he didn't divorce his wife instead.

"He said the last time he was going to get a divorce form her she was going to take too much, and we didn't want to part with all his possession and money," Fairfax said today in U.S. District Court in Boise.
According to court records, Cyndi Steele filed for divorce in June 2000, alleging her husband “misrepresented his marital status and eligibility” in online dating profiles “with the sole intention of meeting women” in San Mateo, where he maintained a law office. The case was dismissed two months later and the couple remained married.
Now prosecutors allege Edgar Steele wanted his wife killed because he believed she was having an affair and because he was interested in a young woman in Europe.
Fairfax, the alleged hitman-turned-FBI informant, testified this morning that Steele had said "he hired a private investigator to follow his wife around and that she was having an affair with an old high school flame in Portland."
Fairfax also said Steele was planning a 30-day trip to Europe.
Fairfax said he was working at Big Al's in Post Falls when an FBI agent called him on June 15 after the pipe bomb was found under Cyndi Steele's car. 
He's been in custody since and is to be sentenced after the trial for two federal firearms charges.

Jurors hear Fairfax-Steele recordings

In this sketch by Ward Hooper, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws is shown at the podium during the trial of Edgar J. Steele today. Steele is shown at right.

BOISE - Larry Fairfax told jurors in the Edgar Steele murder-for-hire trial that though he accepted money from Steele, he never intended to kill anyone and told the FBI about the plot because he feared retribution.

"Mr. Steele was getting agitated, and he said if i didn't take care of the job he would find someone else to do the job, and me," Fairfax said.
Fairfax, who lived near Steele in Sagle, Idaho, testified today in U.S. District Court in Boise, where he is being housed at the Ada County Jail for the trial.
Fairfax contacted lawyer Jim Michaud, and the two arranged a meeting with federal authorities. The FBI gave Fairfax a recording device, and he secretly taped two conversations with Steele at his Talache Road home, east of Sagle near Shepherd Lake.
Jurors heard recordings of those conversations this afternoon.
Steele's lawyers have questioned the authenticity of the tapes.  His supporters, including his wife, believe Steele has been framed by the government.
In the first conversation, on June, 9, Steele is heard agreeing to give Fairfax a $400 "advance" to pay for his trip to Oregon City, where Cyndi Steele was visiting her mother.
Steele tells Fairfax "I'll take it out of your f**king hide; you gotta get this job done." He said a car crash could trigger an insurance policy payment.
"You've got a big payday riding on this one. I've set it up that way on purpose," Steele says
Steele acknowledges that the death investigation could trace back to him.
"We'll be sharing a cell together," Steele said.
But he said he hadn't had second thoughts.
"The only second thought I had is ever talking to you," Steele told Fairfax.
Steele told Fairfax he and a friend were to travel to Spokane the next day - the day his wife was to be killed - to go to a lumber yard and to eat lunch. The trip was part of an alibi Steele planned, according to the conversation. 
"I'll make myself memorable at whatever restaurant we go to," Steele said.
He also said he planned to mail something in Spokane and get a receipt, then go to Sandpoint that afternoon.
He said he would go to the bank and post office in Sandpoint for "something that creates a record with a time stamp" and would say something memorable to the clerk.
But, the self-proclaimed "lawyer for the damned" said, "I always say memorable things. If I didn't say anything memorable, that would be unusual."
Steele told Fairfax he anticipated a visit from authorities but wasn't sure if they'd be there to arrest him or simply notify him of his wife's death.
"I hope to God I can answer the door and seem normal," Steele said.
He said if Fairfax was to get caught, he would tell the police that Fairfax was possibly in love with his wife and killed her because she wouldn't sleep with him.
"Like in Mission Impossible, I will disavow your existence," Steele said. "…There won't be anything i can do except throw you to the f**king wolves."
In testimony, Fairfax said Steele was very angry with him one day and suspected he'd been in his home without Steele's permission.
Steele told him if he went in the house again "he would shoot me" and put his children to work, Fairfax told jurors.
That touches on a key allegation by the defense - that Fairfax had stolen silver from the Steeles and set up the murder plot probe to cover up the theft.
Court is adjourned for the day. Fairfax's testimony will continue Thursday at 8:30 a.m., Boise time.

Steele: ‘Odor Of Fecal Matter’ Filled Air

Agents soon told Steele his wife wasn't actually dead and that they knew he'd hired Fairfax to kill her. Steele stood up and an “odor of fecal matter” filled the air, Sotka said.  The agents “feared that Mr. Steele had defecated himself,” Sotka said. But defense lawyer Robert McAllister emphasized that Steele never confessed to the murder plot during that ruse by the FBI/Meghann Cuniff, SR. More here.

Question: Have you ever figuratively had the poop scared out of you?

In ruse, FBI told Steele wife was dead

BOISE - The day Edgar Steele was arrested for an alleged murder plot against his wife, investigators first told him his wife had died in a car crash to see if he would go along with alibis he'd mentioned in a secretly recorded conversation with an FBI informant.

The 65-year-old lawyer did so, FBI Special Agent Mike Sotka testified today, including making a comment that he suspected his wife was having an affair with Larry Fairfax.
Investigators had just told Steele that Fairfax was involved in the crash but was coming out of a coma and beginning to talk, Sotka testified.
Steele had told Farifax that if Fairfax was ever caught down in Oregon, Steele would tell authorities that Fairfax was having an affair with his wife, Sotka testified. Sotka is in charge of the North Idaho Violent Crimes Task Force, which led the investigation into Steele.
Agents soon told Steele his wife wasn't actually dead and that they knew he'd hired Fairfax to kill her.
Steele stood up and and the "odor of fecal matter" filled the air, Sotka said. 
The agents "feared that Mr. Steele had defecated himself," Sotka said.
But defense lawyer Robert McAllister emphasized that Steele never confessed to the murder plot during that ruse by the FBI.
Sotka said he would have liked for Steele to have confessed, but he was more there "to see if he was going to follow his alibi and make statements that he made the day before about what his alibi would be."
Sotka said Steele's reaction to news that his wife had been killed in a car crash, and that his mother-in-law had been shot to death in her home, was not typical.
 But McAllister questioned why Sotka didn't feel Steele's statement of "what the f**k"?" qualified as shock.
"That's three words," Sotka replied.
McAllister also emphasized that the recording of the conversation between Fairfax and Steele isn't original -
it's a version of the recording that was downloaded from the recorder to a computer.
"The defense doesn't have an opportunity to listen or examine the original recording, isn't that correct, sir?" McAllister asked Sotka.
Sotka disagreed. 
He said that because the FBI does not listen to recordings directly from the device, the first download is considered the original copy.
Fairfax is the next witness. His testimony will continue about 1:30 p.m., Boise time, after a 15-minute break. Court is expected to let out at 3 p.m., Boise time.

Prosecutors: Case against Steele ‘simple’

BOISE - Prosecutors say the case against Edgar Steele is simple.

"It's the story of a man who wanted to murder his wife, hired somebody else to do it, and fortunately, they didn't succeed," Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws said in his opening statement this morning.
Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, often traveled to Oregon City, Ore., to visit her mother. Steele was recovering from a major surgery in December 2009 and often home alone.
"The evidence is going to show that he was angry; the evidence is going to show that he resented Cyndi," Haws said. "He suspected she had a boyfriend."
Today is Edgar and Cyndi Steele's 26th wedding anniversary, says Steele's lawyer, Robert McAllister.

The Sagle, Idaho, lawyer accused of hiring a man to kill his wife was also developing "some interest in some young Russian women" and often chatted with them online, Haws said.
One woman, Tatyana Loginova, will testify via video, Haws said. Steele wanted his wife murdered so he could spend more time with Loginova, prosecutors say.
"This case involves the intersection of two lives: the life of Larry Fairfax and the life of Edgar Steele," Haws said. "…Edgar Steele, who had money, but he couldn't bring himself to kill wife, and really didn't know how to do things with hands. And you had Larry Fairfax, who knew who to do things with his hands, but he didn't have any money."
In a recorded conversation that will be played for jurors, Haws says Steele tells Fairfax that if investigators trace the murder back to Steele, "we'll be sharing a cell together."
Fairfax asks if Steele has second thoughts.
"Mr. Steele says, 'have you seen a second thought in me yet?'" Haws said. Steele also tells Fairfax of a television show he saw in which a woman was paralyzed in a car crash and her husband took care of her for the rest of her life. Steele is adamant that that can't happen, Haws said.
"If I abandoned her at that point, my kids would hate me forever. This could actually become a much worse situation than it is…Do not leave me like that," Haws described Steele as saying.
Haws said Steele continues, "I'm pissed off at Cyndi, but I don't want her to suffer, and I don't want her to realize, as the lights are going out, what's happened…I spent 25 years married to her, and it wasn't all fun and games. But either way, I don't want to see her go out suffering. I want this over with. There aint no second thoughts."
Steele had already paid Fairfax $10,000 in silver and promised much more money if he went through with the murders, Haws said.
Fairfax is expected to testify. Haws said investigators presented Steele with his wife's fake death certificate when they arrived at his home to arrest him June 11.
Haws' opening statement just ended. Opening statements from Steele's defense team are next, after a 10-minute break. 
Steele's supporters, including his wife, believe he has been framed by the federal government.
Cyndi Steele said the Russian women prosecutors refer to were involved in her husband's legal work against human trafficking.

Ruling a setback for Steele’s defense

BOISE - Edgar Steele’s defense won’t be able to call two expert witnesses it lined up to question the authenticity of FBI tapes of Steele talking with Larry Fairfax about an alleged murder-for-hire plot against Steele’s wife, Cyndi, a federal judge in Boise ruled Thursday.

The testimony and expertise from one proposed expert was unreliable, U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill found, and the qualifications and testimony of the second were irrelevant, at least at this point.

Steele, a self-described “attorney for the damned” who’s represented clients including the Aryan Nations, goes to trial on Tuesday on four felony charges related to an alleged murder-for-hire plot to kill his wife and mother-in-law; he faces up to 30 years in prison.

Cyndi Steele’s lawyer, Wesley Hoyt, is the one who contacted the proposed experts and sent them the FBI tapes. “Mrs. Steele believes that the tapes were manipulated,” he said after the judge’s ruling Thursday. “The victim is totally supporting the accused. She believes in his innocence.”

Read the rest of Betsy Z. Russell's story here.

Past coverage:

April 19: Evidence hearing set for Edgar Steele

April 13: Audio experts to testify at Steele trial

Edgar Steele Defense Suffers Setback

Edgar Steele’s defense won’t be able to call two expert witnesses it lined up to question the authenticity of FBI tapes of Steele talking with Larry Fairfax about an alleged murder-for-hire plot against Steele’s wife, Cyndi, a federal judge in Boise ruled Thursday. The testimony and expertise from one proposed expert was unreliable, U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill found, and the qualifications and testimony of the second were irrelevant, at least at this point. Steele, a self-described “attorney for the damned” who’s represented clients including the Aryan Nations, goes to trial on Tuesday on four felony charges related to an alleged murder-for-hire plot to kill his wife and mother-in-law; he faces up to 30 years in prison/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Evidence hearing set for Edgar Steele

A judge will review evidence in the Edgar Steele murder-for-hire case at a hearing Wednesday in Boise.

Federal prosecutors are concerned about reports from two defense experts that they say are repetitive and lack the substance needed to be admitted at trial, which is set to begin with jury selection next Tuesday in Boise. One report is a "copy and paste" of the other, prosecutors say.

Trial was to begin March 7, but prosecutors wanted defense expert Dr. George Papcun excluded from trial, and U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said he couldn't issue a ruling then. Prosecutors then joined in the defense motion to continue trial, leading to the delay.

Winmill said he would review Papcun's report at the evidence hearing. On March 17, defense filed an expert notice for Dennis Walsh, but prosecutors say Walsh's report is identical to Papcun's report. They've asked for Walsh's testimony to be excluded or for him to provide "a more full report," accoridng to court documents.

Winmill is to consider those issues on Wednesday.

In a memorandum filed Monday, prosecutors cited case law that says courts "may conclude that there is simply too great an analytical gap between the data and the opinion proffered" and exclude testimony.

They said neither Papcun nor Walsh submitted reports that indicate their testimony will be based on sufficient facts or reliable principals.

"Interestingly, the opinion provided in George Papcun's report seems to have been "cut and pasted" into Dennis Walsh's report verbatim," according to the memo.

The reports say the recordings, which investigators say show Steele discussing the murder plot with hitman-turned-FBI-informant Larry Fairfax, are unreliable and "do not accurately reflect the sounds and conversations that actually occurred."

But prosecutors say they do not offer details.

"The experts unsupported opinion that the voices on the recordings are dubbed or do not belong to Steele is designed to confuse the jury," accoridng to the memo.

Steele's lawyers, Gary Amendola and Robert McAllister, were not immediately available for comment. 

Steele was to undergo a mental health examination last week in Boise at the request of prosecutors.

His wife, Cyndi Steele (left), said he will not be presenting an insanity defense, rather, Steele's lawyers will argue that he was under the influence of medication and could have been easily influenced and manipulated by Fairfax. 

Those expected to testify for the defense include Daryl James Hollingsworth (right), a Bonner County Jail inmate who recently pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.

Hollingsworth may have had contact with Steele and/or Fairfax while in jail.

Past coverage:

April 13: Audio experts to testify at Steele trial

June 20, 2010: Arrest puts Steele back in public eye

Read more past coverage here.

Steele will undergo mental health exam

The former Aryan Nations lawyer accused of hiring a man to kill his wife will undergo a mental health examination.

Edgar J. Steele, 65, is to be evaluated by a licensed psychologist Friday at the Ada County Jail in Boise.

Psychologist Robert Engle is to submit a report by April 13 detailing Steele's "physical well-being, psychological functioning and mental health condition" currently and at the time police say Steele hired Larry Fairfax to kill his wife, Cyndi Steele, according to an order by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.

Prosecutors requested the mental evaluation after Steele's lawyers filed a notice saying they intend to introduce expert evidence regarding a mental disease or defect that has “bearing on (Steele's) guilt or his lack of a knowing or intentional mental state."

Cyndi Steele has said she believes her husband is innocent and that tapes reportedly containing recorded conversations between Steele and Fairfax were manufactured by the federal government.

The Steeles say the case is an attempt to silence Edgar Steele, self described "attorney for the damned," because of his unpopular views.

Steele is to stand trial April 26 in U.S. District Court in Boise.

Read past coverage here.

Steele trial postponed, moved to Boise

Trial for a North Idaho attorney accused of hiring someone to kill his wife has been postponed until late next month and will take place in Boise.

Lawyers for Edgar Steele requested the continuance to allow more time to prepare an expert witness who is expected to question the authenticity of audio recordings of Steele allegedly discussing the plot with hitman-turned-FBI informant Larry Fairfax.

Court scheduling and concerns about pretrial publicity prompted U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill to move the trial to Boise.

Read my full story here.

Steele’s lawyers want trial moved to Wyo.

Edgar Steele's lawyers want his murder-for-hire trial moved to Wyoming. 

A change of venue request filed by 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.

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 Thursday at 5 p.m. to respond.

Steele is accused of hiring a hitman turned FBI informant to kill his wife, Cyndi Steele. 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.

Feds: Affair was Steele’s murder motive

A North Idaho lawyer accused of hiring a hit man to kill his wife was involved with another woman who received a letter from him after his arrest, federal prosecutors allege.

 Edgar J. Steele, 65, wanted his wife murdered because he “had been establishing a relationship with a young woman who lives outside of the United States,” according to documents filed this week in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene.

Ukrainian officials interviewed the woman and say she provided them with a letter she received from Steele after his arrest last June.

Prosecutors say they plan to show jurors other letters and evidence outlining steps Steele took to meet the woman.  The new information regarding Steele’s alleged motive in the murder-for-hire plot was included in documents filed by prosecutors seeking to keep Steele in custody without bail pending his trial next month.

Read the rest of my story here.

Judge rejects Edgar Steele’s bail request

A North Idaho lawyer accused of hiring a hitman to kill his wife remains jailed after a failed attempted by his lawyers to implement a $1 million bond.

Edgar J. Steele's new private attorneys, Gary Amendola, of Coeur d'Alene and Robert McAllister, of Denver, asked U.S. Magistrate Candy Dale to allow Steele's wife and alleged victim, Cyndi Steele, to testify Wednesday regarding her willingness to put up her property in exchange for her husband's release pending trial.

But Dale refused and questioned their claim that her decision to keep Steele in jail last June was based on "foundation-less, hearsay-filled evidence."  She read excerpts from phone calls Steele made to his son and wife after his arrest in which he urged her to tell authorities it was not his voice discussing the murder plot on secretly taped recordings.

"I think if you had taken the time to listen to the detention hearing…that you would not have even submitted this motion to the court," Dale told McAllister. "There has not been a single change in circumstances."

Read the rest of my story here.

Steele's supporters filled the courtroom Wednesday, including Cyndi Steele, Deon Masker and Stan Hess.

At one point, Hess, (pictured) a former Coeur d'Alene school and North Idaho College board candidate, confronted a supporter who sat in the courtroom holding a tattered paperback book with large swastikas on the cover.

Hess asked him why he insisted on being a walking stereotype. The book was "They Thought They Were Free" by Milton Mayer.

Steele’s supporters propose $1m bond

Get Adobe Flash player
Edgar Steele’s call to his wife

Edgar Steele's new lawyers want him freed from jail before his murder-for-hire trial. 

Steele's wife and alleged victim is prepared to "put all of her property on the line in order to obtain a bond for her husband," according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

The proposed $1 million bond would be covered by titles to the Steele's property and would be cosigned by Cyndi Steele, David Shelly, Jeff Miller and Allen Banks, according to a motion filed by Robert McAllister and Gary Amendola, who took over Edgar Steele's defense last week.

McAllister and Amendola say the evidence against their client, a UCLA law school graduate with no criminal record, is too weak to support keeping him in custody. They say the case depends on unreliable audio recordings and the word of the alleged hitman turned informant, Larry Fairfax, whom they describe as a petty criminal.

A hearing on the motion for bail is scheduled Wednesday in Coeur d'Alene. Stelele has been in jail since June, accused of hiring a hitman turned FBI informant to kill Cyndi Steele and her mother. His trial is set to begin in March.

He faces decades in prison under charges that include witness tampering for jailhouse phone calls he made to his wife after his arrest.

In the phone call (posted above), Steele urged her to tell federal authorities that the voice on the recording of the murder-plot discussion does not belong to him.

“No matter what you hear, no matter what you think, no matter what you feel, you have to say the following: ‘No, that is not my husband’s voice,’ ” Steele said. “Then, like a rhinoceros in the road, you have to stand your ground and refuse to say anything but that.”

In the 15-page motion, Steele's lawyer say Cyndi Steele doubts the authenticity of the murder-plot discussion recording.

"She said that whenever there were discussions about the alleged plot she noticed changed in background noise and her husband's voice lost certain inflections that were very familiar to her," according to the motion. "She told FBI agent Suyak that the tapes were untrustworthy in her opinion."

In documents filed Feb. 7, McAllister and Amendola said they intend to "introduce expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect bearing on his guilt and his lack of a knowing or intentional mental state."

"As of this time, no such notice has been filed by the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Defendant," the lawyers wrote.