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Attorney charged in murder-for-hire plot

by From staff and wire reports
| June 15, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Federal prosecutors have charged a North Idaho attorney with hiring a hit man to try to kill his wife and mother-in-law.

Edgar J. Steele, who is well known from his work representing hate groups such as the Aryan Nations, was arrested Friday in Sagle.

A preliminary hearing in the case scheduled Monday in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene in front of Judge Candy W. Dale was rescheduled because a suspicious piece of mail was received at the court building.

Steele's initial appearance was scheduled for 3:30 p.m., but the building was closed after the mail was found just after noon. The building remained closed for the remainder of the day.

In Steele's case, The Idaho Statesman reports that court records say a witness told the FBI Steele offered to pay him up to $125,000 to kill the women in a car crash meant to look like an accident. According to the court documents, agents concealed a recording device on the witness.

"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."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan says she believes Steele and his wife are still married, and Steele's wife is spending the week at her mother's home in Oregon. Calls to the Oregon house were not immediately returned.

Steele describes himself on his website as an author and trial lawyer who graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law and has a practice that takes cases that test the limits of constitutional law on behalf of politically incorrect clients.

In 2000, he unsuccessfully defended the white supremacist group Aryan Nations and its founder, Richard Butler, in a multimillion dollar lawsuit. Steele also is the author of the book, "Defensive Racism: An Unapologetic Examination of Racial Differences."

Whelan said Steele is being held in federal custody on the felony charge.

The U.S. District Court clerk's office was closed Monday and it was not clear on what date Steele's initial appearance was rescheduled.