Attorney and author Edgar Steele was a little-known Idaho lawyer until 2000, when he represented the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations after the group, its leader and several followers were sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Since losing that case (and penning a 2002 coming-out essay entitled, "It's the Jews, Stupid!!!"), Steele has become a regular on the anti-Semitic and racist circuit. Steele envisions a future race war in the U.S., with white Americans forced to retreat to the Northwest.
In His Own Words
"To the Arabs, America and Israel are the same. In a very real sense, they are absolutely correct, of course. America is Jewish controlled now, at all levels. America IS the Jews. ... [The 9/11 attacks] happened because we have been taken over from within by people that see that the only way to remain in power is to conquer the rest of the world."
— From a 2001 essay on ConspiracyPenPal.com
"Without a pressure release valve, as open racism once provided, an explosion of epic proportions at some time in the future is guaranteed. There will be a race war, the initial skirmishes of which already are being fought in America's streets, that will bring an altogether new meaning to the concepts of race war and genocide, courtesy of those who claim to abhor racism."
— From Steele's 2004 book Defensive Racism
"We should not honor such a misbegotten individual as Michael [sic] King, Jr. Nor should we honor the nonexistent ideals that King supposedly has come to represent: equal opportunity, brotherhood and overcoming prejudice. … If this must be MLK Day, then let those initials stand for what far too many American Negroes truly have become in an increasingly racially-divided and tense America: Marchin' Lootin' and Killin machines. Yep. Marchin' Lootin' Killin' Day."
— From a 2007 essay on ConspiracyPenPal.com
On June 11, 2010, Steele was arrested and charged with trying to pay someone to murder his wife of 25 years and her mother. A witness said Steele offered to pay as much as $125,000 for the job. He was convicted on May 5, 2011, on four federal counts and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Attorney and author Edgar J. Steele was practicing law in the hinterlands of north Idaho until 2000, when he was hired to defend the Aryan Nations against a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of a woman and her son who were terrorized by the group's security guards. During the trial, Steele portrayed himself publicly as a champion of free speech who was not necessarily a racist or anti-Semite. And, in fact, he had no public association with right-wing extremism until the trial and its aftermath.
Steele graduated in 1967 from the University of Washington, going on to serve four years in the U.S. Coast Guard and commanding a radio-navigation station in the East China Sea during the Vietnam War. Steele then obtained a master's degree in business at the University of California at Berkeley. After working as a corporate accountant for several years, he switched career paths to law, graduating from UCLA law school in 1982. Steele then worked for a small law firm in San Francisco until relocating in the mid-1980s to Idaho, where he went into private practice. He would later contend that a Jewish lawyer who once worked for him and tried to steal his clients was the principal "trigger" for his realization that Jews are "predatory."
Although he lost the Aryan Nations case, Steele's spirited defense of the group made him a minor celebrity on the radical right. In a late 2000 interview published in Resistance, a neo-Nazi magazine published by the National Alliance, Steele suggested that the FBI had stacked the deck against the Aryan Nations by purposely failing to find an important witness. In an essay entitled "The Conspiracy Grows Ever Larger" published two years later, Steele accused the judge in the case of unfairly refusing to allow him to present evidence, suggesting that it was an example of how "[j]udges and lawyers actively use existing rules and laws, or simply make it up as they go along, in furthering the leftist agenda, particularly when it comes to keeping the spotlight off things they don't want you to know."
In 2001, Steele represented fellow Sagle, Idaho, resident JoAnn McGuckin in her child-custody battle with local officials following a five-day armed standoff at McGuckin's rural home that was quickly dramatized by the dwindling militia movement as a battle against oppressive government. (The standoff, which ended peacefully, began when her children sicced dogs on police officers attempting to take them into protective custody due to their squalid living conditions).
Subsequently dubbing himself "The Attorney for the Damned," Steele became ever more virulent in his writings. Still, as late as September 2001, Steele was writing on his website that "the vast majority of American Jews are fine people," some of whom were his "friends." But his Oct. 7, 2002, essay, "It's the Jews, Stupid!!!" put an end to any question about his anti-Semitism. Around this time, Steele also began publishing essays on extremist websites that suggested that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was the result of a government conspiracy.
In 2002, Steele filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Council of Conservative Citizens in the hate group's lawsuit challenging a Virginia law that banned public cross burnings. The next year, he spoke at the annual conference of the Holocaust-denial magazine The Barnes Review as well as to the 10-year anniversary celebration of Media Bypass, a publication then owned by adherents of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology. Steele also spoke at former Klan leader David Duke's 2004 European-American Unity and Rights Organization conference and at Aryanfest 2005, where he verbally attacked blacks in South Africa.
In 2003, Steele launched a new website, DefensiveRacism.com, to publish a series of essays collectively titled "In Defense of Racism." Those essays formed the basis for Steele's 2004 book Defensive Racism: An Unapologetic Examination of Racial Differences, which details Steele's vision of a coming race war and ultimate destruction of American society. According to his apocalyptic fears, the race war will begin with the takeover of the southwestern United States by Latinos. "Aztlan's border will stretch from the Pacific coastline across northern California, bisecting Nevada and Utah," Steele writes. "The southwestern portion of Colorado will be included, along with much of Oklahoma and Western Texas. Arizona and New Mexico will go entirely, of course." And in the South, "[b]lacks simply will up the already-simmering race war to a full boil" and eventually create a "New Africa."
According to his website, Steele lived with his wife of some two decades and their three children on a working horse ranch. In 2006, he began to offer his website's readers financial advice in view of what he said was the coming meltdown of the American economy.
In 2009, Steele predicted more domestic terrorism in the wake of the shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum of a security guard by neo-Nazi James von Brunn. "Why did Von Brunn choose to unload at the National Holocaust Museum?" Steele asked. "Because it is an edifice to one of the most stupendous lies of modern times, paid for and maintained with taxpayer dollars, that's why." He added: "Make no mistake. Today's was no isolated incident. You will see more and more shootouts like what took place in Washington, D.C., this morning, until America begins to listen to all her citizens and accords all her children an equal voice in her affairs."
On June 11, 2010, Steel was arrested and charged with trying to pay a confidential witness to murder his wife of a quarter century and her mother. Steele tried to pay the witness to carry out the killings on that day, when he had an alibi, according to a probable cause affidavit. The women were allegedly to be killed in a car crash the witness would arrange. The witness, after informing authorities a few days before the arrest that the plan was about to be put in motion, 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 had allegedly been talking to the witness about the murders for six months and paid the witness $500 travel money in advance. 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.
Cyndi Steele helped raise money for her husband’s defense and granted interviews to Internet broadcasters who his antigovernment and anti-Semitic views. Edgar, she claimed, was a “completely innocent political prisoner” who was the target of a “fraud and a frame-up” by federal agents. “His arrest has been orchestrated by a corrupt government via their armed police, in an attempt to silence his pointed, politically incorrect thought, research and commentary.”
Federal prosecutors, however, claimed Steele wanted his wife dead so that he could replace her with a young Ukrainian woman he had met online without going through a financially debilitating divorce. They pointed to a series of taped conversations between Steele and Slagle, Idaho, handyman Larry Fairfax, the witness and attempted co-conspirator, as well as testimony from Fairfax. Steele’s defense team, and his wife, insisted that Fairfax was the true ringleader and had doctored the recordings to frame Steele.
On May 5, 2011, after a weeklong trial in Boise, a jury convicted Steele on four federal counts. He was sentenced to a 50-year prison term. Fairfax was sentenced to 27 months in prison, despite his collaboration with prosecutors, for failing to tell the FBI that he had already planted a pipe bomb, which failed to detonate, on Steele’s wife’s vehicle.
Even after her husband’s conviction, Cyndi Steele maintained that he was innocent and vowed to continue pushing his ideology. “My husband has always been the one to speak out, but I am going to be the one to speak out [now] because I am fighting for every American’s right to freedom of speech,’’ she said. “I will follow my husband’s footsteps because he is an honorable, loving man.”