Coeur d’Alene court hearing observations, 7/28/2010
On July 28, around 1:20p, pro-Steele visitors began trickling in to the Coeur d’Alene, ID courtroom where a hearing was to be held. More on the reason for the hearing in a moment.
The Federal courtroom was quite large, with computer monitors at locations where the clerk, the judge, the litigants and others directly involved would sit. The tone of the room was exceptionally hushed, as two court ‘ushers’ (in official regalia) hovered at the entrance. The mood was as somber as it was quiet.
Some of us supporters were informed last minute that Mr. Steele might remain in Spokane County Jail, and be present via video conference. At around 1:30pm, Mr. Steele entered the courtroom with his public defender. Mrs. Steele stood alone when her husband entered; after a few moments, she sat. He made repeated – but silent – eye contact with all supporters who were seated along with three family members: Mrs. Steele and their two daughters. Occasionally, he spoke with his public defender.
By 1:50pm, 14 supporters of Mr. Steele had arrived and gathered on one side of the visitor area. There were 7 or so other visitors, 3 court officials. The prosecution team was comprised of 2 men and 1 woman whose backs were to the visitor area.
Quite abruptly and without warning, the courtroom audio crackled to life with the sound of a phone ringing, a woman briefly saying something about “Boise”. The room then fell silent except for the limited whispers between visitors.
At 2:03pm the computer screens snapped on with a visual of a youngish, female judge, along with voices not visible. It became clear the judge for this hearing was in Boise along with some support staff, speaking via teleconference to Cd’A.
(NB: All of the court dialogue recounted here is generally paraphrased from very scant notes.)
In fairly quick succession, the participants were identified, then the judge began the hearing. She indicated this was a hearing to address “superceding indictments”; something was mentioned about bond. She read the first charge of “using interstate commerce for hire to commit murder”, carying penalty of 10 years, $250,000. At this point Mr. Steele interjected that he would “waive formal reading”. The judge quickly replied that she understood, but that he might want to hear all charges first. He acceded.
The judge then went on to list three new charges:
- A) use of explosive materials; penalty 10 years, $250,000 + $100,
- B) possession of a destructive device: penalty 30 years, $250,000 + $100,
- C) tampering with victim: penalty 20 years, $250,000 + $100.
Charge B) above was specified to be consecutively applied to the other charges.
Moving quickly along, these topics were brought up and addressed with Mr. Steele providing responses: awareness of the maximums of penalties, formal reading waived, unable to hire his own attorney, that he qualifies for the public defender. Then a brief discussion regarding assets siezed by the government, confirming certain monies had been returned to Mrs. Steele.
The judge then asked Mr. Steele’s public defender how his plea on the listed charges would be entered; the response was not guilty on all counts. She continued by elaborating right to trial by jury and other rights afforded, and made two particular references to rights specified by the American Constitution. A working date of August 16, 2010, 1:30p in Cd’A for the trial
was announced. Mr. Steele’s public defender indicated they would be requesting a later trial date. Mention was made of another judge possibly ruling on a matter of the case.
The hearing ended at what seemed like no later than 2:45pm. Recess was called and the visitors and the prosecution team filed out, to gather in the hallway leading to the courtroom. Mr. Steele was escorted out the side door of the courtroom and his last glance back was to his wife and family who he made direct eye contact with. His demeanor seemed to be in “neutral” as if in a dream state of not knowing what to do or say.
A reporter was in the hallway and she was engaged by a few of Mr. Steele’s supporters who seemed well versed in the true reasons for Ed’s arrest. The Steele family spoke with visitors, then, for a time, Mrs. Steele spoke with the public defender back in the courtroom. At approximately 3:10pm all parties exited the building.
Meeting some minutes later at a supporter’s home, many of those in attendence joined together to celebrate Mrs. Steele’s birthday with pizza, a decadent German Chocolate cake and refreshments. We gathered outside in fortunately clear skies to discuss further the hearing just concluded. Besides casual conversation, many present offered their own observations of
the hearing as well as ideas for legal support. Excepting Mr. Steele’s son who was not present, the Steele family is solidly unified and believe in his innocence on all charges. The afternoon wound down as supporters gradually returned home.
In the CDAPress.com’s 7/29/2010 report on the hearing, writer David Cole claims, “Whelan played in court the conversation she said was between Steele and his wife”. It is this writer’s strong conviction that no such recording (or any recordings, for that matter) was played during the session.