[Un-effing-believable. Anybody know or heard anything about this??]
North Idaho attorney charged in murder-for-hire plot
Prosecutors say Edgar J. Steele, long tied to hate groups, agreed to pay money to see his wife and her mother dead.
BY KATHLEEN KRELLER AND CYNTHIA SEWELL - [email protected] [email protected]
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Edgar J. Steele, 64, was charged Friday - the same day the women were to be killed in a car crash meant to look like an accident, according to a probable-cause affidavit.
A confidential witness occasionally employed by Steele met with the FBI Wednesday and told agents Steele would pay him to murder the women.
The witness said Steele had discussed a list of people he wanted dead, including his wife and her mother, six months earlier. The witness agreed to the plot and accepted travel money, court documents say.
According to the affidavit, the witness was supposed to kill the women Friday because Steele had an alibi for that day. So agents concealed a deviceon the informant and recorded Steele planning the murders, the document said.
"The United States magistrate had found probable cause for the offense," said Traci Whelan, an assistant U.S. attorney for Idaho. "As for the timing of the arrest, it was prudent, given he had apparently set a deadline for it."
Steele is well known from his work for hate groups such as the Aryan Nations and other high-profile clients, including the McGuckin family, who held off police during a 2001 Idaho standoff. He's also known for vocal anti-semitic and racist rants on the Internet.
The witness told the FBI Steele paid $500 in cash for travel expenses and promised as much as $25,000 if the murders were completed on Friday. According to the affidavit, Steele promised the witness another $100,000 if an insurance policy paid out after his wife's murder.
"Edgar Steele told (the witness) that he has no second thoughts and he wants the plan carried out," the affidavit said. "This statement was made multiple times during the meet."
According to the affidavit, Steele said he would deny knowing the witness if he were caught, but he would compensate the witness's family if Steele was never implicated.
The motive for the alleged plot is unclear. Whelan said she believes the couple is still married and has not separated. Steele's wife was visiting or helping out with a health care issue at her mother's house in Oregon this week, Whelan said.
Calls to the Oregon house were not immediately returned on Friday.
Whelan said the complaint is just a charging document and is not proof of guilt. Steele will likely appear at a preliminary hearing on Monday, and the case must go before a grand jury, she said. Steele was arrested Friday at his Sagle home.
"Neither the FBI or U.S. Attorney's Office would proceed in a case where we didn't feel there was proof to charge," Whelan said.
Steele is in custody on federal felony charges, she said, but she declined to reveal where he is being held.
According to his website, Steele is an author and trial lawyer who graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law and has a law practice that is "noteworthy for cases that test the limits of constitutional law on behalf of politically incorrect clients." The website also says Steele recently considered a run for Idaho governor.
He unsuccessfully defended the Aryan Nations and its founder, Richard Butler, in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit brought against them in 2000. Steele penned the book "Defensive Racism: An Unapologetic Examination of Racial Differences."
Last year, in response to the shooting of a security guard at the national Holocaust Memorial Museum by neo-Nazi James von Brunn, Steele said, "Why did von Brunn choose to unload at the National Holocaust Museum? Because it is an edifice to one of the most stupendous lies of modern times, paid for and maintained with taxpayer dollars, that's why."
Kathleen Kreller: 377-6418