Trials & Litigation

Lawyer convicted in failed contract-hit attempt on wife sues defense counsel for malpractice


An Idaho lawyer serving a 50-year federal sentence after being convicted two years ago in what prosecutors described as a failed contract hit attempt on his wife and mother-in-law is now suing his defense lawyers.

Edgar Steele, 68, insists, along with his wife, that he is innocent. He has blamed the unexploded pipe bomb (found under his wife’s vehicle during an oil change) on a scheme by the feds to frame him due to his anti-government views and representation of clients such as the Aryan Nations. He claims, both in the malpractice suit he has filed and an ongoing appeal of his conviction, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. He points out that one of his lawyers, Robert McAllister of Denver, was disbarred by consent a month after Steele was convicted, according to the Idaho Statesman and a Spokesman-Review article published before Steele’s sentencing.

McAllister was also convicted of fraud in Colorado and sentenced to a six-and-a-half-year term in federal prison.

“McAllister’s representation of Edgar Steele was clouded, distorted and diminished by the conflict of interest arising from his concerns about his own pending disbarment and prosecution,” wrote Steele’s lawyer, Wesley Hoyt, in the complaint in the Ada County malpractice case. Steele says he didn’t know about an investigation of McAllister that was then ongoing, or that his attorney was in bankruptcy.

A Coeur d’Alene lawyer who also represented Steele at trial supported his malpractice suit with an affidavit, and McAllister himself has admitted that he was ineffective, the Statesman reports, relying on information from the Denver Post.

Steele was convicted of four felonies: Use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire; use of explosive materials to commit a federal felony; possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence; and tampering with a victim.

In an October opinion (PDF), the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the trial judge appropriately exercised his discretion to defer consideration of a pre-judgment motion by Steele for a new trial due to claimed ineffective assistance of counsel until the trial was complete and a full record would be available. Steele is now seeking en banc review of that ruling by the 9th Circuit.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Once a Top Prosecutor and Colo. Defense Attorney, Ex-Lawyer Awaits Arraignment in Federal Fraud Case”

Courthouse News: “Imprisoned White Racist Sues Attorneys”

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