|Edgar J. Steele|
|Born||July 5, 1945|
|Occupation||Writer, former lawyer|
|Criminal charge||Conspiracy to commit murder|
|Criminal penalty||50 years' imprisonment|
Edgar J. Steele (born July 5, 1945) is an American author and former attorney from northern Idaho, best known for serving as the defense attorney for Richard G. Butler, the founder of the white supremacist Aryan Nations.
On June 11, 2010, Steele and another man were arrested and charged in connection with an alleged murder-for-hire plot to kill Steele's wife Cyndi and her mother. Steele's wife and other supporters, including former Louisiana State Representative David Duke, stated during Steele's trial that the allegations were false, and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had arrested Steele simply to silence him. Steele was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder on May 5, 2011, and was sentenced to 50 years' imprisonment on November 9, 2011. He is now incarcerated in Victorville, California.
Steele defended Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler in a 2000 lawsuit, which he ultimately lost. In another case, Steele challenged Idaho's hate crime laws in defending Lonny Rae, a man who had been charged with malicious harassment for shouting "nigger" at a black referee who had injured Rae's wife, Kimberly (a reporter for a local newspaper), while trying to prevent her from taking a photograph following a high school football match. Steele argued that the law breached the constitutional right to free speech under the First Amendment. Rae was cleared of the harassment charge but sentenced to seven days imprisonment for assault. In 2004, Rae's conviction was overturned on appeal, which was also handled by Steele. Steele also formerly worked as a spokesman for Prussian Blue, a female white supremacist pop music duo that was active in the mid-2000s.
In 2004, Steele published a book entitled Defensive Racism: An Unapologetic Examination of Racial Differences, in which he described his views on the differences between the races of the world, and questioned the motives of political correctness.
Arrest for conspiracy to commit murder
In June 2010, Steele's handyman, Larry Fairfax, alleged to authorities that Steele was soliciting the murders of his wife and mother-in-law in a murder-for-hire plot. The FBI wired Fairfax for sound for a meeting between Fairfax and Steele where the plot would be discussed. Steele was thereafter arrested for conspiracy to commit murder.
Subsequently, when Steele was already in police custody, a pipebomb was found under his wife's car when she took it in for an oil change, which brought the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms into the case, and Fairfax was arrested. The charging document for Fairfax's arrest includes an admission that he manufactured and installed the bomb. Fairfax was given a 27-month prison sentence, and was transferred to home confinement in April 2012.
Steele was initially assigned a federal public defender, Roger Peven, when he was arrested. In July 2010, Steele's supporters put up a website to solicit donations to hire him a private attorney. By February 2011, they had raised over $120,000 for this purpose, and hired leading Denver attorney Robert T. McAllister, as well as local Idaho attorney Gary Amendola. Steele remained incarcerated in Spokane, Washington, and Bonner County, Idaho while awaiting trial. He was relocated to Boise, Idaho, for his trial, which began on April 28, 2011. At the time of the trial, McAllister was in the process of being disbarred for converting the funds of a client to his own use.
Prosecutor Traci Whelan questioned Steele's wife Cyndi regarding her marital troubles with him. In 2000, Cyndi had caught her husband looking for women in California on Match.com; she posted her own profile with a fake name and got him to reply, after which she filed for divorce. In her petition, she asked for numerous damages, including child support payments of $1,400 per month, two of the family's vehicles, and their horse ranch in Sagle, Idaho. Steele and Cyndi were reconciled a few months later and the divorce petition was dismissed. Nonetheless, the prosecution used this to show that Steele had a motive to kill his wife if he wanted a new girlfriend.
Steele's computer had been seized with his arrest. Under questioning, Cyndi admitted that her husband had sent 14,000 emails to large numbers of Ukrainian women between January and June 2010. Each of the women had received at least 10 emails or 100 instant messages. The prosecutor argued that this showed that Steele wanted a new girlfriend, and had a motive to kill his wife.
The prosecutor introduced several love letters written by Steele to his supposed Ukrainian girlfriend Tatyana Loginova from his jail cell while he was awaiting trial. These letters were signed by Steele and admitted without objection by Steele's attorney. In one of the letters, Steele expressed a wish to live with Loginova:
"You could, perhaps, go to school in Panama, if you like, or summer school in Ukraine, or we could find you something to do – work at something, language instructions? Take care of our babies, make love to me, whatever will make you happy. You get to be near friends, family for half of every year. I get the same for three months each year. We both get to be warm for the winter, which can be like a huge, extended vacation each year. Our kids learn both Russian and English as they grow up. It sounds great to me. What do you think, my love?"
Loginova was later questioned over a video link from the Ukraine. The prosecutor argued that Steele desired to be with Loginova in the Ukraine, and thus had a motive to kill his wife.
Conviction and sentencing
On May 5, 2011, after extended deliberation, the jury of eleven women and one man found Steele guilty on all four counts described in the indictment. In an interview after the trial ended, Steele's wife gave a passionate and critical assessment of the prosecution, judge and case elements. Steele's sentencing hearing was held on November 9, 2011, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. After making a statement in his own defense, he was sentenced to 50 years' imprisonment. He is now interned in Victorville, California.
- "Edgar Steele sentenced to 50 years in murder-for-hire scheme". Namps, ID: KIVI-TV. November 9, 2011.
- Latah County Jail Booking Information. VINELink. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
- "Update regarding appeal and Mr. Steele’s current status at Victorville, 4/12/2013". FreeEdgarSteele.com. April 12, 2013. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- "Leaders of Aryan Nations Found Negligent in Attack". The New York Times. September 8, 2000. Retrieved April 8, 2008.
- Cortese, Anthony; Delgado, Richard (2005). Opposing Hate Speech. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 21–23. ISBN 0-275-98427-3.
- "STATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Lonny Duane RAE, Defendant-Appellant. No. 28229". Court of Appeals of Idaho via Google Scholar. January 23, 2004. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
- "Pop Twerps From Heil Can't Carry Tune". Daily News (New York). October 30, 2005.
- Steele, Edgar J. (2004). Defensive Racism: An Unapologetic Examination of Racial Differences. Sagle, ID: ProPer Press. ISBN 978-0-9761259-0-7.
- "North Idaho attorney charged in murder-for-hire plot". The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA). June 14, 2010.
- "Criminal Complaint: Affidavit of Todd Smith". United States v. Larry Fairfax. United States District Court for the District of Idaho. June 16, 2010.
- "Hit man in Edgar Steele's murder-for-hire case out of prison on home confinement". AP via The Republic. June 1, 2012. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
- "Wife stands by husband accused of trying to have her killed". Krem.com. July 29, 2010. Retrieved August 6, 2013.
- Info release, continuance & change of venue, 3/9/2011. FreeEdgarSteele.com. Retrieved January 21, 2012.
- Day 1 Trial Transcript Page 1
- "Denver Lawyer Is Disbarred". Law Week Online. June 9, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
- Day 3 Trial Transcript Page 770
- Day 3 Trial Transcript Page 734.
- Day 4 Trial Transcript Page 816.
- Day 5 Trial Transcript Page 1098
- "Jury deliberates in Idaho murder-for-hire case". Boise, ID: KTVB. May 6, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
- "Raw: Cyndi Steele maintains husband's innocence, blames govt. conspiracy" (Flash Video). Boise, ID: KTVB. May 5, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
- Sentencing Transcript via StopNetSpend.com. Retrieved October 22, 2012.