After being held incommunicado for nearly a month, Idaho attorney Edgar Steele was finally able to get a letter out of the Spokane County Jail, where he is being held on shaky federal charges of “murder for hire.” He maintains that a confidential informant (CI) in the feds’ employ lied to the authorities regarding the alleged plot in order to cover up the theft of tens of thousands of dollars in silver coins the CI had stolen from Steele sometime earlier.
In addition to being an outspoken foe of the Israeli state and the Anti-Defamation League, Steele has spent the last half of his law career defending—often pro bono—the politically incorrect and especially those charged with “hate crimes,” thereby creating a case history that evidently has made him a federal target.
Larry Fairfax, 49, is the CI who claims Steele offered him $25,000 to kill Mrs. Steele and her mother. Her mother resides in Oregon.
This writer has learned that Fairfax has been a longtime informant used by the FBI to gather information in both drug and “hate crime” cases. Steele had been under surveillance for several months. Fairfax had been Steele’s handyman, doing home repairs.
Following a June 11 arrest, federal agents destroyed the Steele home, ripping up floorboards and tearing out wall partitions, before hauling away a large amount of silver, gold and other valuables.
Ingri Cassell, widow of Idaho Observer publisher Don Harkins and longtime Steele family friend, experienced several failed attempts to visit or receive a collect phone call from Steele before finally receiving a letter from him on July 9. In the following letter, Steele’s explanation of likely events behind the scenes, coupled with the known facts, begins to make sense of the bizarre and dubious accusations of a month earlier:
Thank you for your letter.
All calls out are almost non-existent. I was looking forward to seeing you and [Dr.Allen Banks] yesterday. I suppose they just turned you away? I haven’t had a single visitor here so far and only barely been allowed to see my public defender. I’m not allowed to call my lawyer even until next week. I am in max security, full lockdown, solitary confinement. Worse even than the treatment accorded Matt Hale.
Most of [my] mail is returned to senders—usually because of their using letters instead of full first and last names in the review [sic] in the return address. OK. I am innocent, for what that is worth in Amerika today. Here is what happened:
My hillbilly handyman stumbled across a stash of silver bullion in one of my outbuildings—then searched and found two others (at $15,000 and $45,000 total). Knowing I would discover the theft [and] know it was him, he tried to kill me with two pipe bombs he placed on the cars he knew I drove.
They both failed to go off. Cyndi left town with one before he removed it, which led to the discovery of the car bomb on our Mitsubishi SUV.
This guy had offered to be a hit man before, more than once, but I dismissed him as a harmless buffoon. I had told him of the ADL [and] its hatred for me. This murder-for-hire plot is beyond my hillbilly hit man, so I assume he went to the ADL, which either fabricated tapes that he played for the FBI recorder or produced a mimic of me to make the tapes for the FBI on the spot. Regardless, I have been framed and set-up! [By the way], the ADL was quoted extensively in the government’s opening papers in court.
I haven’t heard from my wife or son and fear they have been convinced by the U.S. attorney prosecutor of my guilt. I feel totally abandoned. What can you and others do? Ingri, I honestly don’t know. Obviously, this is going to trial. I may well be convicted, which will be the same as a death sentence at this stage in my life. I am so depressed. I never expected them to come after me like this.
You may share this with others . . . with my address so they can write me—please write me—but tell them to put their full names and addresses [as a clear return address] on the envelopes. [The address is: Edgar Steele #361857, Spokane County Jail, W. 1100 Mallon, Spokane, Wash. 99260-0320.]
It was Ms. Cassell’s flurry of letters and phone calls to sheriffs, judges and congressmen the previous 30 days that pressured the authorities into later relenting and allowing Steele to have visitors and make collect phone calls. However, because of the pending charges, his wife and children still are not allowed to visit.
Ms. Cassell and Banks were finally able to visit him on July 13, at which time Steele told them of the “bone chilling” effect he felt when listening to one of the tapes allegedly recorded secretly by Fairfax. Steele said he became physically ill as he heard “someone else speaking but using my voice.”
For more than a decade, scientist George Papcun, by taking just a 10-minute digital recording of anyone’s voice, has shown how to clone speech patterns and develop an accurate facsimile.
Dr. Don Nicoloff, a multi-talented musician and audio recording engineer who professes expertise in detecting fraudulent recordings, says that the creation of fictitious audio recordings has become very sophisticated, yet the technologies currently used have limitations.
Those limitations center on the formation of digital samples from an analog recording, and tampering is not difficult to detect.
“Every sound which can be recorded,” reports Nicoloff, “including the voices of Edgar Steele and Larry Fairfax, has its own, unique signature. Those unique signatures are called ‘formants.’ Formants are distinguishable to a trained ear, especially when they have been manipulated. Formants can also be identified and analyzed as waveforms on a computer screen or oscilloscope. Placing a formant into a given sound field causes the formant to modulate when the sound field has been altered, manipulated, or is absent. Changes in room ambience and/or recording methods are very apparent.”
Voice-altering software is sold for as little as $29.95. Voice synthesis software, which can actually create or mimic voice patterns, is significantly more expensive, but is widely available to public and private entities.