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September 15, 2014

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Ex-Aryan Nations attorney dies in federal prison

Updated Friday, Sept. 5, 2014 | 11:54 a.m.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) — Edgar Steele, who once represented Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler in a lawsuit that bankrupted the white supremacist group, has died in federal prison in California. Steele was 69.

Steele was serving a 50-year sentence at the federal prison in Victorville, California, after he was convicted of plotting to kill his wife.

The prison website listed him as dying on Thursday. No other details were immediately available, and the prison operator phone went unanswered Friday.

Steele was convicted of four felonies in 2011 after authorities said he tried to have his wife and her mother killed by a handyman he hired to plant a car bomb.

Steele wanted his wife dead so he could collect on an uninsured motorist insurance policy and be free to pursue a relationship with a woman from Ukraine, prosecutors said. He paid $10,000 in silver to another Idaho man who agreed to kill the women, authorities said.

The would-be hit man testified during Steele's trial that he accepted the silver because he was desperate for money, but he never intended to carry out the plan.

Steele, who called himself the "attorney of the damned" for representing clients like Butler, was sentenced to 50 years for the murder plot.

Steele's wife, Cyndi, never believed that her husband was involved in a murder-for-hire scheme. The bomb didn't explode, and Cyndi Steel continued to support her husband, proclaiming his innocence and saying he was targeted for his anti-government views.

Butler hired the northern Idaho attorney in 2000 to defend Aryan Nations from a lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The human rights group brought the case on behalf of two people who claimed they were attacked by Aryan Nations security guards.

Steele lost the case, and the white-supremacist group was bankrupted by the $6.3 million in damages awarded to the victims.

In the years after that case, Steele made speeches at white-supremacist events.