He's been called a racist and a liar, and convicted of trying to hire someone to kill his wife. But, a North Idaho attorney says he's none of those things - and has done nothing wrong. Now, less than a week away from his sentencing, Edgar Steele is speaking out about what he considers a vast conspiracy to put him away for life.
His case has all the makings of a Hollywood thriller. It began in June 2010, with a man charged with hiring a handyman to blow up his wife's car. Cyndi Steele made a call for help from a Coeur d'Alene mechanic's shop.
"I just pulled into the Quaker State oil change and they went underneath my car," she told 911 dispatchers. "They were going to do an oil change and they found a pipe bomb under my car."
Prosecutors say not only did they find the bomb, they have Edgar Steele on tape, offering Larry Fairfax tens of thousands of dollars to make the hit. It didn't take long for a jury to convict Steele. Now, he's facing a sentence that could put him away for the rest of his life.
"To be here is a shock. An injustice of the first order," Steele told us in a jail library last week. At the request of the U.S. Marshals, we can't tell you specifically where he's being held, just that it's a jail in North Idaho. Steele wanted to talk to us because he says his case is much more than a simple murder-for-hire.
"I always thought I'd like to end my career with one big case involving real government tyranny and genuine wrong-doing that you can point to and people would be marching in the streets," Steele said. "Lo and behold - ironically - I've almost got the case and its mine."
Steele made a name for himself ten years ago, representing those on the fringe. He represented the McGukins, a North Idaho family whose children held government agents at bay with guns and guard dogs for days on end. He also represented the Aryan Nations in a civil case that bankrupt the movement. You can't talk to Steele without hearing his views on race.
"People live in North Idaho and they're here for the weather, they're here for the lack of population, they're here for the good shopping, they're here for the transportation," he explained. "Those are acronyms, code words, for living apart from other races. I don't use those code words. I just say I prefer to have my family live somewhere that is not riddled with the crime that comes with Mexicans and blacks living all around you."
He lays out those views in his book "Defensive Racism." It's a book he sent to President Barack Obama and Justice Secretary Eric Holder after the 2008 election.
"Holder had complained we needed to have this dialogue in America about race. S, I sent it to both of them saying, 'I've been trying to have this dialogue for years. Here's my book.' Did I annoy them with that? Is that what started all this perhaps? I don't know."
By this, he means the corruption and conspiracy he says led to his arrest. He believes Fairfax - a man he calls an "oafish, North Idaho handyman" - stole silver from him, then placed the pipe bombs under his car to kill him. When the plot didn't work, Steele says Fairfax had an ace in the hole.
"I had told him about my difficulties politically with the ADL and the SPLC and the FBI," says Steele. "He knew about all that. All he had to do is make one phone call to be drafted into a scheme to put me down.... He's shrewd like a weasel. Not real bright, but shrewd and conniving."
And, he says the tapes ordering the hit were doctored, made to sound like him, or spliced together from other recordings of Steele found online.
This would take a lot of resources, I told him. Then, I asked what makes him so important that they would invest this much.
"I've asked that question myself repeatedly," he replied. "I didn't think I was very important. But, they've been taking out the leaders of what we call the movement in America for years. And, they're almost all gone now - either in prison or dead. Now, they're down to the second-tier guys and I'm one of those guys."
But, the woman overseeing his prosecution disagrees.
"At the time Mr. Steele was arrested in this case, I didn't know who Edgar Steele was," says U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson. "At the time the FBI brought the case to our Coeur d'Alene branch manager's office, she was unaware of who Edgar Steele was. We simply didn't know who he was until there were allegations he was involved in criminal conduct."
Olson disputes every allegation of misconduct put forth by Edgar Steele, and there are many. She disputes his contention that the government wants him put away because of who he is - an outspoken white separatist - not what he's convicted of doing.
"Here we got a case where we have no victim, no damage and a a confessed perp serving his time in jail - and they want to lay 60 years on me. What's wrong with this picture?" asked Steele. "There's something else going on."
"He was attempting, according to the evidence introduced at trial, to hire someone to kill his wife. We will always take those crimes seriously," says Olson. "We have treated murder-for-hire cases seriously in this district throughout the time I have been with the US Attorney's office."
And, what about his wife? Edgar Steele still wears his wedding ring and talks to Cyndi every day. He says her loyalty proves he'd never want her dead.
"My wife is a sweetheart. A heart of gold. Every time I see her, my heart leaps up," he said. "She's my buddy - my partner, my lover, my co-worker... she's a part of me. I can't imagine life without her."
But, it's a reality he may need to get used to. He faces between 40 and 70 years in prison at his sentencing on November 9th. The government is recommending 50 years.
"At my age, 10 years in prison is a death sentence. It doesn't matter what they give me," he said. "Hell, give me a thousand years, Judge. Put me in the Guiness Book of World Records - it doesn't matter to me!"
Steele says he's not sure how far up the ladder the government corruption goes, just that it's time America knows what he's been warning about for years. He points to the Occupy Wall Street movement as citizens rising up to take back their country; it's the kind of revolution he's been waiting for.