Markel murder trial day 7: Wiretaps played in court

By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 7, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — The state could rest its case later in the day against Sigfredo Garcia and Katherine Magbanua. The two are accused in a murder for hire plot in which FSU law professor Dan Markel was gunned down in his driveway in July 2014.

The judge told the jury Friday that the state is hoping to rest its case on Monday. The defense case could take a day and a half to call witnesses, and jurors could get the case to begin deliberations on Wednesday or Thursday.

WCTV has continued coverage of this trial, including recaps of each day in court.

Whenever the trial is in session, you can watch a livestream of it here on our website.

Day 7 Wrap Up

More than four dozen tapes of recorded phone calls were played Monday in the trial of two people accused of murdering an FSU law professor for money.

The case had gone cold until an under cover agent slipped on of the suspects a note back in 2016.

In April 2016, the murder of FSU law professor Dan Markel was almost two years old.

Phone taps on the two people now on trial revealed little.

Sgt. Chris Corbett with the Tallahassee Police Department testified in court the theory behind the case is that Markel’s ex-wifes family coordinated the hit.

The plan, called ‘the bump’, was to have an undercover FBI agent hand Markel’s ex-mother-in-law a note asking for money to help suspect Luis Rivera who was already in jail on drug charges.

“Just want to make sure you take care of what he is going through the way your taking care of Katie,” said the FBI agent in a video of the exchange.

“I think a few minutes after arriving to her condo she calls Charlie Adelson,” said FBI agent Paul Standford.

Charlie Adelson called Katherine Magbanua, the woman charged as being the point person between the hitmen and whoever called for Markel to be murdered.

“99% sure when I was talking to her she said it's mentioned your name,” Charlie Adelson told Magbanua in the wiretap recording.

The next day Charlie Adelson meets with his mother.

“They were very cautious, looking around a lot. They were leaning in close to each other talking very low,” said Sandford.

Eventually, Katherine Magbanua calls Sigfredo Garcia, who is accused of pulling the trigger in the murder.

“You keep telling me you're going to make a phone call,” Magbana says in the recording.

“I'm making that $%^&^ phone call... I'm going to take care of this %*#& problem,” Garcia responded.

Eventually the undercover number attached to the note given to the Adelsons was called.

“The number was called. They didn’t even pick up,” Charlie Adelson is heard saying in a wiretap.

In a later call Charlie reassures his mother.

“This fishing is all that’s going on and I wouldn’t worry about it at all,” said Charlie in the audio recording.

The two defendants are expected to present their witnesses all day Tuesday.

And the jury is expected to get the case on Wednesday.

11 a.m. update

The first wiretaps played for the jury were conversations between Charlie Adelson and Katherine Magbanua.

They were recorded the same day that an undercover FBI agent approached Adelson’s mother, Donna, on the street and handed her a flyer with Dan Markel’s picture on it and the amount $5,000 on it.

Charlie Adelson called to tell Magbanua about the man calling his mother by name and asking for money. “What?” Magbanua said in surprise. Adelson told Magbanua the man mentioned one of his ex-girlfriends.

During a second call later that day Magbanua asked if Adelson’s mother called the police. Charlie Adelson said no, that his mother wanted to meet with him to talk about it the next day.

“I have no problem with you whatsoever,” Magbanua said. “Maybe you have a crazy ex-girlfriend.”

“I’ve got like 10,000 ex’s,” Charlie Adelson said.

“Somebody does that in broad daylight, that’s scary,” Magbanua said.

Magbanua repeatedly expressed concern for his mother’s safety.

“There’s a lot of (expletive) whack jobs out there,” Adelson said.

The FBI agent said Charlie Adelson called Katherine Magbanua the next day and told her he was planning to meet with his mother about the flyer.

FBI agents took pictures of Adelson meeting with his mother by her condo around noon that day, but said they could not hear their conversation.

Sanford testified Charlie Adelson met with Magbanua at a restaurant called the Dolce Vita later that same day. That meeting was recorded on video, but Sanford said it’s difficult to hear what they’re saying over clanging dishes.

10:30 a.m. update

The FBI’s lead investigator in the Dan Markel murder case is now testifying.

FBI Special Agent Patrick Sanford said he “scrubbed” phone records for Luis Rivera and Charlie Adelson, but could find “no contact whatsoever between them.”

Sanford testified that he was present at a meeting with Rivera and his lawyer on September 30, 2016, and went along on a “ride around” with Rivera in Tallahassee as he described what happened the day of the murder. That included a stop at the crime scene at Markel’s home in Betton Hills, Sanford said.

Sanford said he later rode with Rivera along the route he took home after the murder in hopes of finding the murder weapon.

Rivera claims Garcia threw that gun over a bridge and into the water on their way home to Miami. Sanford testified that they stopped at a bridge on I-75 near Tampa. Sanford said agents later cleared the brush there and a dive team searched the water, but never found the gun.

Sanford said an undercover FBI agent approached Donna Adelson on the street in front of her condo in April 2016, then handed her a flyer with Dan Markel’s picture on it.

Sanford said a series of phone calls were recorded via wiretap later that day.

Prosecutors are about to play the first wiretap for the jury.

9:30 a.m. update

TPD Sergeant Chris Corbitt is back on the stand.

He testified that police put wiretaps on two of Katherine Magbanua’s phones and one of Charlie Adelson’s phones in the spring of 2016.

On cross examination, the defense asked why TPD didn’t tap the phones of the rest of the Adelson family. Corbitt said he can’t speak to who made that decision or why.

Corbitt testified that the wiretaps are monitored 24/7. He said there are more than 350 recorded calls.

9:15 a.m. update

Circuit Judge James Hankinson is now deciding which wiretaps will be played for the jury.

There are more than 40 calls the state is trying to admit into evidence.

Hankinson called the law on hearsay in conspiracy “outdated,” but said he has to follow the law.

Hankinson admitted nearly all the calls that involve either Katherine Magbanua and/or Sigfredo Garcia, and he tossed out almost all the calls that involve only members of the Adelson family.

The judge ruled he will allow one call between Charlie and Donna Adelson as part of a series of calls on April 26. The judge ruled he will also admit a call between Charlie Adelson and an undercover FBI agent.

The judge admitted more than 30 wiretaps and threw out at least 12.

Prosecutors also plan to play an undercover video of Katherine Magbanua and Charlie Adelson meeting at a Miami restaurant. The judge ruled jurors will not be able to see a disputed transcript of the recording, only the recording itself.

8:30 a.m. update

The state intends to play a series of 40 wiretap recordings on Monday, but the defense told the judge they will object to all of those calls.

The judge Friday said he has not made a ruling on the calls yet and asked prosecutors to give him and the defense copies of the recordings, summaries and transcripts to review.

A decision on that is expected shortly.

The judge said he will allow the jury to see a secret video recording of Magbanua and Charlie Adelson meeting at Miami restaurant.

None of the Adelsons has been charged in the case and have repeatedly denied any involvement in Markel’s murder.

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