STEELE CONVICTED ON ALL COUNTS IN MURDER-FOR-HIRE SCHEME
Edgar J. Steele, 65, of Sagle, Idaho, was convicted today by a federal jury in Boise on all counts, including using interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, use of explosive material to commit a federal felony, possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence, and tampering with a victim, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced.
During the seven-day trial, the jury heard audio tapes of Steele making statements to Larry Fairfax, the individual he tried to hire, confirming his participation in the murder-for-hire plot. Mr. Fairfax pled guilty on related charges and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 11 in Coeur d'Alene.
Steele's conviction for using interstate commerce facilities in the commission for murderfor- hire and use of explosive material to commit a federal felony each carry a maximum punishment of ten years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release. Steele's conviction for possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence (murder-for-hire) carries a mandatory minimum sentence of thirty years and maximum of life in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and up to five years of supervised release. The mandatory minimum thirty-year sentence must be served consecutively to the murder-for-hire sentence. For tampering with a victim, Steele faces up to twenty years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and up to three years of supervised release.
Sentencing is scheduled for August 22, 2011, before Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill at the federal courthouse in Coeur d'Alene.
“We are pleased with the verdict,” said Olson. “This trial involved some detailed and difficult evidence that the jury clearly closely evaluated before reaching its decision. The defendant tried to portray this case as a government conspiracy based on manufactured evidence. The jury's verdict confirms what we knew—there was no conspiracy, only Edgar Steele's own words and actions proving that he tried to hire Larry Fairfax to murder his wife. Our sympathy goes out to Mrs. Steele and her children. This case is truly a tragedy for that family.”
Olson commended Assistants United States Attorney Marc Haws and Traci Whelan, and members of the North Idaho Violent Crime Task Force (NIVCTF) and Federal Bureau of Investigation who investigated the case.
The NIVCTF consists of investigators representing the FBI, Idaho State Police, Kootenai County Sheriff's Department, Shoshone County Sheriff's Office, Bonner County Sheriff's Office, Coeur d'Alene Police Department, Post Falls Police Department, and the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Police Department, and is tasked with investigating a myriad of violent crimes to include armed robbery, kidnaping, felonious assault and drug trafficking.
Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is a collaborative effort by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and communities to prevent and deter gun violence.