By DAVID COLE/Staff writer The Coeur d' Alene Press
BOISE - Larry Fairfax, the 50-year-old handyman turned hitman at the center of the Edgar J. Steele trial in federal court in Boise, has written more than 230 pages of what he testified will ultimately be a work of fiction.
However, those who have read it - who could probably be counted on one hand - say he writes about himself and his life since being arrested for entangling himself in an alleged murder-for-hire plot.
To be absolutely sure there's nothing contained within those single-space, handwritten pages that might help Steele's defense in his ongoing trial, U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill reviewed the writings Tuesday.
So what's the book all about?
John Miller, Fairfax's defense lawyer, said it records the "daily rantings and ravings" of his client at the time of his arrest and during his time in jail. He said Fairfax, of Sagle, takes some shots at prosecutors, the court, and Miller himself.
"Yes, there's some embarrassing material in there," Miller said.
Also included are prayers and entries about Fairfax's wife and family.
Miller said it's mostly privileged material that shouldn't have been seen by prosecutors, the judge and defense lawyers in Steele's case. Winmill ordered prosecutors to obtain the writings, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan read through the material over the weekend. She said she didn't find any exculpatory information.
Miller said the writings constitute more of a diary. Fairfax, however, has called it a book and had a fellow inmate craft a book cover. The fellow inmate, a multiple felon and artist, testified about his discussions with Fairfax about the project.
Steele defense attorney Robert McAllister said he wants a copy of the writings so he can represent his client. McAllister said he didn't subpoena Fairfax's work months earlier because he didn't believe Fairfax had written a book. His writings will be filed by the court under seal, Winmill said.
Fairfax still hasn't been sentenced for manufacturing and placing a pipe bomb under Steele's wife's SUV. He has admitted doing as much.
After Winmill finished poring over the writings, he said he planned to turn over parts of it that are relevant to the Steele case to McAllister, of Englewood, Colo., and defense attorney Gary Amendola, of Coeur d'Alene.
If there are sections that are reviewed by the defense, the lawyers might recall Fairfax as a witness. McAllister said Tuesday that Steele also might testify.
Steele, 65, of Sagle, hasn't spoken about the case since he was first arrested and began representing himself as his own attorney. Steele, during his legal career, represented Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations in North Idaho, among other high-profile clients.
While the judge and lawyers pored over Fairfax's work, jurors were sent away for the day without hearing from a single defense witness.
Other than hearing from Fairfax, again, or Steele, the jurors might hear from a defense expert who will talk about the audio recordings Fairfax captured while carrying a hidden device in his pocket. Fairfax became an FBI informant against Steele, his former employer.
That defense expert, George Papcun, must travel from Bora Bora, where he was on vacation on Tuesday, to Boise. Papcun must arrive some time today, because Winmill denied a defense request to continue the trial until Papcun was able to return.
Papcun likely would seek to attack the authenticity of the recordings' from June 9 and 10 at the Steeles' home.
Earlier, in court documents, Papcun concluded that to "a reasonable degree of scientific probability" the "tapes do not represent a true and valid representation of reality and they are unreliable."
Papcun's testimony could come into play because neither Cyndi Steele nor daughter Kelsey Steele, 20, believe the recordings between Edgar Steele and Larry Fairfax are authentic and reliable. Both believe Steele is innocent.
Winmill declined to allow Papcun to testify remotely from the South Pacific Ocean location after prosecutors complained about not being able to appropriately cross-examine him using the technology that would be available in the courtroom, and complaining the law doesn't provide for such an accommodation.
Winmill criticized the defense for not subpoenaing the witness, to ensure he would be available for the trail.
"It is a problem of the defense's own making," Winmill said.
Jurors were shown a video earlier in the trial of a 25-year-old Ukrainian woman, whom prosecutors said Edgar Steele wanted to be with instead of his wife. Her deposition, recorded in the Ukraine, was shown to the jury because prosecutors don't have the authority to make her travel to the U.S. to testify.
Fairfax testified he went to the FBI to report the alleged murder for hire, and agreed to secretly record Steele discussing the plot he's on trial for allegedly concocting. Fairfax said he wanted to get paid by Steele because he was struggling financially, but never intended to kill Cyndi Steele, even though he has admitted in court he placed the bomb under her vehicle and acknowledges it could have detonated.
Winmill said the jury is likely to have the case in its hands Thursday.
"We're pretty much on course," the judge said.
The trial continues today. Steele, who was arrested June 11, could spend the rest of his life in prison if he's convicted on the four counts he's charged on relating to the alleged plot.