From the June 2001 Idaho Observer:

“No good deed goes unpunished”

Steele formally withdraws from McGuckin case

SANDPOINT -- Edgar J. Steele appeared at the “shelter” hearing for the McGuckin children held at 8 a.m. June 11 and made two motions, the second of which was a formal request to be granted leave to withdraw from the representation of JoAnn McGuckin and her children, due to his client's refusal to cooperate with him. Mrs. McGuckin then clearly pronounced her desire that Mr. Steele not continue in any capacity on her behalf or that of her children, thereby obviating the need for the Court to rule on Mr. Steele's second motion. Because the proceedings were under seal, inquiries concerning Mr. Steele's first motion should be directed to the Court.

Steele filed with the Court an affidavit signed by “Jane Doe” (true name disclosed only to the Court due to interests of the children, since Jane Doe will likely provide the temporary foster home for the children) which stated, in part, “I first spoke with JoAnn after her arrest by phone the night of June 1, 2001, and she confirmed that she had asked Mr. Steele to help her out and represent her legal interests of a civil nature, and those of her children.”

Steele also filed with the Court a lengthy affidavit of his own which stated, in part, “She stated that she wanted me to appear at any hearings and ensure that her kids didn't get railroaded. She wanted me to defend her interests in keeping her family together and being reunited with her kids. She also asked me to look into the land title forfeiture and see if there was any way to undo that. Then, to make it official, I said, 'Then you want me to represent you for all civil issues related to your pending criminal charges, including the land transfers and your children?' 'Yes,' was her response. 'You want me to represent your children with regard to any and all custody issues?' Again, Mrs. McGuckin said, 'Yes.' I told her I would do so and there would be no charge.”

This should finally put to rest the false allegations circulated by Mr. Robinson, Mr. Powell and the Sheriff's office that Edgar Steele had never been retained by Mrs. McGuckin. Steele said, “You know, it is singularly curious that this is the only point upon which these three parties have been able to agree in this matter.” Steele also pointed to the fact that he has been the most vocal critic of both Mr. Robinson, for pressing a groundless case and trying the case in the press with false statements, and Mr. Powell, for not diligently pursuing Mrs. McGuckin's interests, such as getting her released from jail under acceptable terms and securing at least supervised visitation with her own children, who she has not seen since the day she was arrested.

Steele stated that Mrs. McGuckin's about face concerning his involvement in this case was as complete as it was without any apparent basis in Steele's not having been diligent on behalf of Mrs. McGuckin. “I have no idea why she turned on me. She is extremely fragile mentally and highly susceptible to suggestion and the influence of others, as told me repeatedly of late by (Jane Doe).” Steele absolutely ruled out the possibility that he had subjected Mrs. McGuckin to any undue influence. “What did I have to gain? I was offering to gift her with legal work with a value well in excess of $100,000, after all.”

Steele has also been the lone legal-related voice to protest the seizure and sale of the McGuckin family home, though he stated that he had no evidence of any connection between his outspokenness in that regard and the apparent unified attempt to marginalize, then eliminate him from the case.

Steele noted that what should be the single most important matter in this entire affair, that of putting this family back together and giving them the space to heal, seems to have been given short shrift. Steele turned over the results of his efforts in this area to the recently-appointed co-counsel for JoAnn McGuckin's interests, Sara Seaborg, for continued handling.

Nor has anybody other than Steele's office and a thus-far anonymous benefactor done any work or investigation in pursuit of undoing the egregious tax seizure and sale of the McGuckin family home. This development also closes that file, though Steele indicated a willingness to share the results of his work in that regard, which he characterized as “extremely promising,” with any subsequent counsel that Mrs. McGuckin might secure to carry on her family's interests in the Garfield Bay property now owned by a Mr. and Mrs. Korengut, of New Jersey.

His withdrawal also forecloses the possibility of Steele's firm at this time making an anticipated constitutional challenge to the Idaho State law which provides that the proceeds of the sale of property realized from a tax sale in excess of back taxes go to the government, rather than the dispossessed owners of the property. Steele had boldly pronounced that “this law is a clear violation of the Constitutional prohibitions against denial of due process and unreasonable seizures.” “Regrettably,” said Steele, “more people will have to be impoverished by their own government before another attorney eventually comes into possession of a case with which he or she is willing to go up and get that law reversed, as my firm stood ready to do in this case.”

Steele noted that donations from every state in the country were pouring in to the trust fund he established to, first, pay JoAnn McGuckin's bail, then to provide for the family's needs. “We went a little over $14,000 on Saturday and every day sees the post office box stuffed again.” Steele absolutely ruled out the possibility of turning the money over to the appointed counsel, Bryce Powell, for handling, saying that he would likely give over handling of the trust fund to a local bank, with the strict provision that Powell never be allowed to touch it, since Powell had previously tried to get Steele to pay over some of that money to Powell to supplement his own county stipend for handling the case.

Steele stated that, previously, he had been “ready to post $10,000 cash to bail out Mrs. McGuckin just two days after she was arrested,” and was frustrated that the bail was never reduced to that amount. Instead, the court merely granted her a release on her own recognizance, but saddled with terms to which she could not consent, such as agreeing not to see her own children, who had lost their father just two weeks prior to her arrest. “I'm a father,” said Steele, “ and that is a term I would never agree to, not in a million years. She might as well be held under an order which denies the possibility of the posting of bail for all the good the current court order does her.”

Steele was especially critical of the local press, which seemed to fully cooperate with the Robinson/Powell/Jarvis “triumverate,” in attempting to paint him as an interloper with ulterior motives. “Absolutely,” said Steele, “I admit it. My hidden agenda was seeing that this family get a fair shake from the system for a change. Is it any wonder that the system lashed out at me?”

“Just goes to show you,” Steele said of his departure from the case, “even when it comes to your own neighbors, sometimes no good deed goes unpunished.”

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