COEUR d’ALENE — Cyndi Steele offered to put up virtually everything she owns as collateral to secure her husband Edgar J. Steele’s bond pending his trial next month.
But Chief U.S. Magistrate Candy W. Dale on Wednesday denied him the chance for release from jail. He’ll remain in the custody of the U.S. Marshals.
High profile attorney Edgar Steele, 65, of Sagle, is set to be tried starting March 7 in U.S. District Court on four felony counts, including one for use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.
He is accused of hiring a hitman, Sagle handyman Larry Fairfax, to kill Cyndi Steele and her mother. Federal prosecutors say they have recorded conversations between Fairfax and Edgar Steele plotting the murder.
Fairfax has admitted to accepting money from Edgar Steele for the alleged hit and attaching a massive pipe bomb under Cyndi Steele’s SUV with wiring to the exhaust system. Fairfax is scheduled to be sentenced for that next month.
The proposed $1 million bond would have been secured by the title to the Steeles’ property and co-signed by Cyndi Steele, David Shelly, Jeff Miller and Allen Banks. The group has a collective net worth of more than $1 million, according to court documents.
Edgar Steele also is charged with 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. He was arrested in June of last year at his home.
Later that month, a detention hearing was conducted and Dale found that Steele was a danger to the community and that he posed a threat to obstruct justice and intimidate witnesses.
She pointed to jailhouse phone calls made by Edgar Steele on June 13 to Cyndi and their son, Rex Steele, which were recorded and then played in court. The calls were made two days after he was arrested.
Steele told his wife in one call, “After you hear this tape tomorrow, no matter what you hear, not matter what you think, no matter what you feel, you have to say the following: ‘No, that is not my husband’s voice.’ And then like a rhinoceros in the road, you have to stand your ground and refuse to say anything but that. OK. You heard me, right?”
Edgar Steele told her that federal authorities would need her help to authenticate his voice on the recordings where her murder is allegedly being plotted. Fairfax turned from hitman to undercover informant, wearing a hidden recording device in their meetings.
Steele’s attorneys, Robert T. McAllister, of Englewood, Colo., and Gary I. Amendola, of Coeur d’Alene, said in court documents that the recordings between their client and Fairfax are of poor quality and subject to different interpretations by the listener.
Cyndi Steele has listened to the tapes.
“Obviously she does not believe her husband of 25 years is guilty of the charges,” they wrote in their motion for a secured property bond.
They continued: “She said that whenever there were discussions about the alleged plot she noticed changes in background noise and her husband’s voice lost certain inflections that are very familiar to her.”
The defense attorneys also question the likelihood of the pipe-bomb plot actually working, since there was no remote trigger to explode the bomb while Cyndi and her mother were riding in the vehicle.
Federal prosecutors have said that in addition to producing the recorded conversations between Steele and Fairfax about the murder plot and Steele’s alibi, they also plan to produce evidence of Steele’s motive.
Prosecutors, in court documents, said Steele wanted to be with another women and that he took steps to be with her.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marc Haws and Traci Whelan wrote: “The defendant had been establishing a relationship with a young woman who lives outside of the U.S. This young woman was located and interviewed by Ukrainian officials and at the time of her interview she provided them with a letter she received from the defendant while he was in custody.”
They said the letter is evidence he would likely flee if released.
Prosecutors, in court documents, said the defense has announced it intends to introduce evidence at trial that Edgar Steele has a “mental disease or defect or other mental condition.”
They pointed to that as another reason to prevent his release before trial.
Haws and Whelan said it appears the defense is attempting to establish that Steele was “emotionally unstable” when the alleged murder-for-hire plot was discussed and set in motion.
“It is concerning that if the defendant suffers from such an affliction, releasing him unmonitored to live in a home with the target of the murder-for-hire would be a fatal error,” they wrote.