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Defense rests its case in Katherine Magbanua retrial

The defense rested its case Thursday evening after Katherine Magbanua testified for more than four hours.
The defense team began calling witnesses Thursday in Katherine Magbanua’s retrial, but it’s not...
The defense team began calling witnesses Thursday in Katherine Magbanua’s retrial, but it’s not clear yet if she will testify in her own defense or if her longtime boyfriend and convicted co-defendant Sigfredo Garcia will take the stand.(Jacob Murphey - WCTV)
Published: May. 26, 2022 at 9:39 AM EDT|Updated: May. 26, 2022 at 5:35 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The defense has now rested its case in the retrial of Katherine Magbanua.

Magbanua - the last witness on the stand - testifying for four and a half hours Thursday afternoon.

Attorneys will begin closing arguments Friday morning and the jury could begin deliberating by lunch hour.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - “I’m freaking out,” Katherine Magbanua said as she took the stand to testify in her own defense.

Magbanua was sworn in just after 1 p.m. Thursday.

She denied any involvement in Dan Markel’s murder and denied delivering $100,000 in cash as payment for it.

“Did you have anything to do with the murder of Dan Markel?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Did you know anything about the murder of Dan Markel?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Would you have ever assisted anyone in having a father of two killed?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Would you assist anyone in having anybody killed?”

“No, ma’am.”

Magbanua also denied meeting up with Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera the morning after Markel’s murder to deliver a bag full of money as payment for the murder.

“Did Charles Adelson give you $100,000 in stapled cash to then go give to the father of your kids - who you were not with - the next day?”

“No, ma’am.”

Magbanua described her long term on again, off again relationship with Sigfredo Garcia. She testified that she met him right after high school, the couple then moved to Orlando when she went to college and later returned to Miami after getting pregnant.

Magbanua said she broke up with Garcia toward the end of 2013, kicking him out of their apartment.

Magbanua said a friend told her about a job at SoFi Dental and that is where she met Charlie Adelson.

She testified that she met his sister, Wendi Adelson, for the first time in March 2014 as they ate a restaurant in South Beach called Yardbird. Magbanua said Wendi was there with her boyfriend when she got there.

Magbanua testified she met Wendi Adelson twice, once at that restaurant and once at the beach.

“Did you know anything about Wendi Adelson’s divorce?”

“No, ma’am.”

“About her custody battle?”

“No, ma’am.”

The defense questioned Magbanua extensively about her finances, jobs and income. She says she was able to support herself and her two children financially with some help from her mother.

Magbanua testified that on occasion Garcia would bring her large sums of cash, but she would not ask where it came because it was “probably something illegal” and she needed the money for the kids.

Magbanua testified that in 2014 she asked Charlie Adelson to put her on the payroll at the Adelson Institute so she could get insurance for her child who has special needs.

She testified that she had no set schedule or job duties and served as his personal assistant, helping with the web site or rental properties as needed.

She denied being put on the payroll as payment for Markel’s murder.

Magbanua also testified about meeting Charlie Adelson at the Dolce Vita restaurant in April 2016. She says he talked with her about a man confronting his mother on the street about Dan Markel’s murder, a fake blackmail attempt FBI agents call “the bump.”

“Did he mention Tallahassee?” Kawass asked about her conversation with Charlie Adelson at the restaurant that day.

“No, ma’am.”

“Did he mention a murder?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Did he mention Dan Markel?”

“No, ma’am.”

Magbanua spent more than three hours on the witness stand. At 4pm, she was still testifying.

See previous updates from the courtroom below.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The defense team began calling witnesses Thursday in Katherine Magbanua’s retrial, and Magbanua told the judge before the lunch break she will testify in her own defense, just as she did in her first trial.

The defense wrapped up all of its other witnesses Thursday morning without calling Magbanua’s longtime boyfriend and convicted co-defendant Sigfredo Garcia. Garcia — the convicted triggerman currently serving a life sentence in the murder plot — was brought from Holmes Correctional to the Leon County Jail earlier this week so he would be available to testify.

The state rested its case Wednesday around 5 p.m. after calling witnesses and presenting evidence over the course of six days. The state’s final witness, an FBI agent who was key in introducing wire-tapped phone calls and the secretly recorded Dolce Vita video, was on the stand the entire day.

Magbanua is accused in the 2014 murder-for-hire plot of FSU professor Dan Markel. Her first trial in 2019 ended with a hung jury and mistrial.

The judge reiterated Thursday that he’d like to wrap up with the defense Thursday afternoon so attorneys can make closing arguments on Friday morning and the jury can begin deliberating by the lunch hour.

The defense previously estimated its witnesses would take about 10 hours on the stand and expressed concern about rushing jurors through deliberations in advance of a three-day holiday weekend.

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