State rests its case in retrial of Katherine Magbanua

FILE PHOTO: The State Attorney’s Office has provided the WCTV newsroom with a transcript of a...
FILE PHOTO: The State Attorney’s Office has provided the WCTV newsroom with a transcript of a 2016 conversation between Charlie Adelson and Katherine Magbanua at a Miami restaurant.(State Attorney's Office)
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 9:56 AM EDT|Updated: May. 25, 2022 at 5:39 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — The state has rested its case against Katherine Magbanua and the defense will begin calling witnesses in her retrial on Thursday.

Magbanua is one of four people accused in the 2014 murder for hire of FSU professor Dan Markel.

Magbanua was first tried along with her boyfriend and accused triggerman Sigfredo Garcia back in 2019. He was found guilty and sentenced to life, but the jury was deadlocked in Magbanua’s case and the judge declared a mistrial.

Witness testimony has spanned six days so far. Week one was dominated by the testimony of co-defendant Luis Rivera and Markel’s ex-wife Wendi Adelson. Week two has focused so far on finances, phone records, undercover videos and wiretaps. Wednesday’s testimony concluded with a day-long grilling of the lead FBI agent in the case, Pat Sanford.

Defense attorney Chris DeCoste questioned the objectivity and thoroughness of the FBI’s investigation.

Sanford was questioned about inconsistencies in Luis Rivera’s statements, the source of cash deposits into Magbanua’s accounts, a car she purchased from Harvey Adelson and paychecks she received from the Adelson Institute.

The defense team previously estimated it had 10 hours of witness testimony.

Co-defendant Sigfredo Garcia is on the witness list and was transported from a state prison in the panhandle to the Leon County Jail earlier this week so he is available to testify.

It’s not clear yet whether Katherine Magbanua will testify in this trial, as she did in the last.

The judge told attorneys he’s hoping the defense can wrap up its case Thursday, so the jury can begin deliberating Friday.

Find previous updates from the courtroom below.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — A series of secretly recorded phone calls were played aloud in courtroom 3G in the retrial of Katherine Magbanua.

The FBI was wiretapping the phones of Magbanua and Charlie Adelson and listening in on their conversations in the spring of 2016 as they continued to investigate the murder for hire of FSU professor Dan Markel.

One of the calls was placed right after Magbanua and Adelson met at the Dolce Vita restaurant.

Charlie Adelson called his mother Donna Adelson and told her he had just met a friend for coffee.

“I gave her good advice, she’s sleeping on it,” Charlie Adelson said.

“It’s not like you threatened anybody or hurt anybody,” Charlie Adelson said later in the call. “The whole thing was weird ... very weird.”

The Dolce Vita meeting and the phone call happened one day after an undercover FBI agent confronted Donna Adelson on the street, handing her a flyer with Dan Markel’s picture on it, a phone number and the dollar figure of $5,000.

FBI Agent Pat Sanford says when no one called the number on the flyer, the FBI went one step further and mailed a cryptic note to the Adelsons’ home in hopes of generating more conversation about the murder-for-hire plot.

A few days later, Charlie Adelson called his mother Donna Adelson trying to get the number from the flyer, Sanford testified.

“Do you remember the number on the flyer?” Charlie Adelson asks in the recorded phone call. He tells his mother he has the paper at his house but wanted to see if she had written it down.

“No,” she said. “I gave you the paper.”

Another recorded call featured a conversation between Magbanua and Sigfredo Garcia. Sanford testified that she accurately relayed the number on the flyer to him.

Call “T” between Charlie Adelson and his mother Donna Adelson was one of the longest calls played in court.

“Everything else is being taken care of,” Charlie Adelson said. “They actually called the person and no one picked up.”

“Really?” his mother replied.

“I wouldn’t worry at all. I would worry about other things,” he said.

“You’ve done nothing wrong,” Charlie Adelson told his mother. “Someone wants to try to make some money ... throw a fishing line out there,” he said.

An FBI agent who identified himself as “Sammy” then called the Adelson Institute and left a message for Donna Adelson with the same phone number on the flyer.

There is a recording of Charlie Adelson calling the number and the man on the other end tells him this “isn’t going away.”

In a recorded call soon afterward, Magbanua describes the phone call to Garcia, gives him the number again, and says “It’s getting too detailed... somebody knows for sure.”

The jury has spent more than three hours watching the Dolce Vita video and listening to the recorded phone calls. The defense has not yet begun its cross-examination of the lead FBI agent, who is the state’s final witness.

See previous updates from the courtroom below.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Jurors in Katherine Magbanua’s retrial are watching the Dolce Vita video as the state prepares to rest its case.

Magbanua is one of four people accused in the 2014 murder for hire of FSU professor Dan Markel.

Jurors, attorneys, the judge and Magbanua are all wearing headphones to help them better hear the conversation between Magbanua and Charlie Adelson. Jurors are listening and watching intently and several of them are taking notes.

RELATED: State attorney releases transcript from 2016 Adelson-Magbanua conversation at Miami restaurant

The video was recorded in 2016 by an undercover FBI agent and recently “enhanced” by an audio forensics expert to reduce some of the background noise in the busy restaurant.

Prosecutors say the newly enhanced video led to the arrest of Charlie Adelson last month.

Defense attorneys contend Magbanua’s comments are rarely audible and do nothing to implicate her in Markel’s murder.

Jurors are seeing the recording without subtitles or transcripts after defense objections to their accuracy and authenticity of them. It is 41 minutes long.

RELATED: Jury in Katherine Magbanua’s upcoming trial will see Dolce Vita video, but not transcripts or subtitles

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