|Edgar James Steele|
|Born||July 5, 1945|
|Died||September 4, 2014
|Occupation||Writer, disbarred lawyer|
|Conspiracy to commit murder|
|50 years' imprisonment|
Edgar James Steele (July 5, 1945 – September 4, 2014) was an American author and disbarred trial attorney from northern Idaho, best known for serving as the defense attorney for Richard G. Butler, the founder of the white supremacist group Aryan Nations. He was a graduate of UCLA Law School and the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business.
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. He was found guilty and sentenced to a 50-year prison sentence. Steele died in prison in September 2014, three years into his sentence.
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 2005, 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. Though Steele and Cyndi were reconciled a few months later,, the prosecution used this to argue that Steele was unsatisfied with his marriage and had a motive to kill his wife because he wanted a new partner.
Steele's computer had been seized with his arrest. Under questioning, Cyndi testified that her husband had sent 14,000 emails to large numbers of Ukrainian women between January and June 2010 as part of his research on a Russian bride scam centered in Florida. 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 partner, and had a motive to kill his current 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 were admitted as evidence in court without any objection from 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 [sic]? 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: (1) use of interstate commerce to commission murder for hire, (2) possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence, (3) use of explosive material to commit a federal felony, and (4) tampering with a witness. 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 was interned in Victorville, California until his death.
Edgar Steele died in prison at the age of 69 on September 4, 2014, after suffering from declining health for weeks. The Edgar Steele Defense Fund subsequently stated that Cyndi Steele was denied court-ordered visitation despite her suspicions that her husband's health was endangered by his imprisonment, and that prison officials provided no information about Steele's declining health prior to his death.
- "North Idaho attorney Edgar Steele, convicted for plotting to kill wife, dead at 69". Spokesman-Review. September 5, 2014. Retrieved October 21, 2014.
- Latah County Jail Booking Information. VINELink. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
- "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.
- ISBN 978-0976125907. OCLC 57138184
- Defensive Racism: An Unapologetic Examination of Racial Differences.
- "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. 1 June 2012. Retrieved 1 June 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.
- ""Edgar Steele sentenced to 50 years in murder-for-hire scheme"". Op.cit.
- Membership records of the California State Bar. 2014. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
- "Free Edgar Steele". Edgar Steele Defense Fund. 2014. Retrieved October 22, 2014.