The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Idaho ‘Attorney for the Damned’ Arrested in Plot to Murder Wife

By Mark Potok on June 14, 2010 - 9:56 am, Posted in Anti-Semitic, Extremist Crime

Many people thought Edgar Steele went off the deep end in 2002, when, after unsuccessfully defending the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations and its late leader in a lawsuit, he wrote the coming-out essay, “It’s the Jews, Stupid!” After all, the man had spent most of his life up to that point as an obscure corporate accountant and, later, a small-time lawyer in California and then Idaho. Now, he began to describe himself as the “attorney for the damned,” rail on about “predatory” Jews, accuse the government of a 9/11 conspiracy, and predict a bloody race war.

But that may not have been the half of it. Today, Steele is expected to appear at a preliminary hearing in Idaho after being arrested Friday and charged with trying to pay a confidential witness to murder his wife of a quarter century — the mother of his three children — and her mother. Steele, 64, tried to pay the witness to carry out the killings on Friday, when he had an alibi, according to a probable cause affidavit. The Idaho Statesman also reports that Steele had allegedly been talking to the witness — and paid $500 travel money in advance — about the murders for six months. He also allegedly mentioned other people he wanted dead.

The witness told the FBI that Steele had promised up to $25,000 to carry out the murders, adding that the attorney said he would furnish another $100,000 if an insurance policy on his wife paid out. Steele also allegedly said that if the witness were caught, Steele would take care of the witness’ family in return for silence.

No motive for the plot was revealed. A prosecutor said she believed the couple were still married and not separated. There seems to have been no public indication of anger on Steele’s part toward his wife. “My wife and my kids — they are my rock,” he wrote in an otherwise bloody-minded, July 29, 2006, essay. (In the same essay, he bemoans the fact that his own father “believ[es] that I am a nut case.”)

According to the affidavit, the women were to be killed in a car crash the witness would arrange. The witness, after informing authorities last week that the plan was to be put in motion Friday, was sent to a meeting with Steele wearing a recording device. Authorities said they had recordings of Steele discussing details of the planned murders. “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.”

Steele served in the Coast Guard, got a master’s degree in business and was an accountant in San Francisco before changing careers and getting a law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, law school in 1982. He moved in the mid-1980s to Idaho, where he worked in obscurity as a lawyer until taking the Aryan Nations case in 2000. The group was being sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on behalf of a woman and her son who were attacked by Aryan security guards, but Steele portrayed it as an attempt to crush free speech. A jury did not agree, however, and imposed a $6.3 million judgment on the Aryan Nations and its leader, Richard Butler, who died four years later. The group subsequently dissolved into small, squabbling factions, becoming a shadow of its former self.

“We always thought that Edgar had a few screws loose,” said Richard Cohen, the president of SPLC and a lawyer who was part of the SPLC’s legal team in the case and came to know Steele. “But we never would have pegged him as a killer.”

Steele, who wrote the 2004 book Defensive Racism, seemed to grow more radical, and more conspiracy-oriented, as the years passed. But there was little to suggest that he was prepared to murder his own family members. He, did, however, have this to say in an April 1, 2008, essay: “Welcome to my mind. This is the way it works. As I told my wife before we got married: I’ll make you two promises. First, I’ll never hit you. Second, it will never be boring.

  • JohnLloydScharf

    Blair, the “life long socialist” was certainly not a Stalinist and his writings are far more close to the actions of the USSR and China. National Socialism and Marxist Socialism are two sides of the same coin. Both of them deprive citizens of rights because they consider the government more important than the individual. Both of them begin by taking private property and nationalizing it from credit/banks to health care to manufactering.

  • java2001e

    “”Orwell was not a socialist.””


    obviously you’ve never read his essays. he fought for the socialist militia in the Spanish Civil War and it was one of the experiences that changed his life.

    “The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.”


    The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius George Orwell

    “Part II: Shopkeepers At War, 1941

    ‘An economic system in which land, factories, mines and transport are owned privately and operated solely for profit — does not work…’

    Orwells novels are brilliant, but its his essays that truly speak for the man.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “Totalitarianism” isn’t a valid word. It’s a made-up buzzword used to smear anything other than liberal democracy, and to equate socialism with fascism despite their ideological differences. Orwell could write whatever he wants, his services to imperialism are well established.

  • fred c dobbs

    hey, looks like klaus kinski is still alive and living in idaho…

  • John Hobson

    Orwell was a socialist. See his Road To Wigan Pier. In his essay, “Why I Write”, Orwell said “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written directly or indirectly against totalitarianism and for Democratic Socialism as I understand it.”

    He loathed Stalin, believing that Stalin had abandoned socialism for totalitarianism.

  • skinnyminny

    Hahaha, what a nice mug-shot! Is this guy wearing lipstick?

  • daemonesslisa

    No one had to ‘try’ to entrap him. Racist loser speds like him always give themselves the rope. The more of them gone, the better!

  • Gen. JC Christian, patriot

    That has to be the whitest man in America. I bet he takes pride in that.

  • Melissa Luck

    New Developments… late this afternoon, our TV station in Spokane confirmed a suspicious device was found on a vehicle registered to Edgar Steele and his wife Cyndi. Details still coming in… here’s our story:

  • Kute Kountry Kousin

    Edgar Steele always said they would try to entrap him one day.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Orwell was not a socialist. He said he was so as to confuse people and try to deflect attention from the fact that he was nothing but a right-wing ideologue and dilettante.

  • Paen

    This fellow is typical of the sort of ignorant thug that have always been atracted to fascist movements.
    It’s intersesting to note that the wing nuts still haven’t figured out that Orwell(true name Eric Blair)was a life long socialist.