COEUR d'ALENE - Federal prosecutors are asking that Edgar J. Steele receive 50 years in prison for the murder-for-hire plot he concocted to have his wife killed, court documents said.
Steele, 65, an attorney who represented high-profile clients in North Idaho, including the Aryan Nations' onetime leader Richard Butler, is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court, in Coeur d'Alene.
After seven trial days, a federal jury in Boise convicted Steele, of Sagle, of plotting the hit and paying his handyman, Larry Fairfax, to murder Steele's wife of 26 years, Cyndi.
The jury also convicted Steele of using explosive materials to commit a federal felony, possessing a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence, and tampering with a victim.
In the government's sentencing memorandum to the court, prosecutors wrote, "To plan the murder of an innocent spouse is unthinkably heartless. To manipulate a financially desperate neighbor to commit the murder with a violent car-bomb explosion is depraved."
Steele paid Fairfax, 50, also of Sagle, $10,000 in silver.
For it, Fairfax manufactured and attached two pipe bombs on vehicles owned by the Steeles, so when Cyndi Steele drove in her SUV from North Idaho to western Oregon in May 2010 to visit her mother the first bomb would explode and kill her.
The plan was devised so the second bomb would be discovered on Edgar Steele's car, un-detonated, diverting suspicion from him.
Neither bomb went off.
When the first plan failed, other means of killing her were discussed, including driving her off the road or "guns blazing." Steele offered Fairfax additional payment if the killing was carried out in Oregon and if he killed Cyndi's mother, too.
The bomb under Cyndi Steele's Mitsubishi Endeavor was later found during an oil change.
Fairfax testified during Steele's trial that he was in desperate need of money, accepted the silver, but didn't intend to follow the plot all the way to the end.
At trial, prosecutors played for the jury two June 2010 audio recordings in which Steele can be heard urging Fairfax to get the murder job done.
Fairfax went to the FBI about the plot and agreed to carry a hidden recording device to capture conversations about the plot between the two men at the Steele residence. Conversations were recorded on June 9 and 10, 2010, and Steele was arrested a day later, when he believed the plot would be carried out.
In the sentencing memorandum, prosecutors included some quotes by Steele from those recorded conversations.
"I'm pissed off, but, I don't want her to suffer and I don't want her to realize as the lights are going out what's happened," Steele told Fairfax. "I'd like it to be a mystery or a surprise, or better yet, happen so fast she, that she's not even aware of what's going on. That's the way I'd like it, OK?"
Prosecutors said Steele felt trapped by his wife and the ranch they owned in Sagle, and that he fantasized about mail-order Russian brides.
Prosecutors wrote, "Precisely because Steele had a clean record, and he was a longtime attorney at law, he calculated that he would not be suspected of serious crimes."
The jury also found Steele guilty of attempting to persuade Cyndi to give misleading testimony to the FBI investigating the case.