Markel Murder Trial Day 8: State rests its case, defense begins to present witnesses

By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 8, 2019

The state is expected to rest its case today. Once that happens, the defense will start presenting its witnesses to the jury.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — Day eight of the Dan Markel murder trial picked up where day seven left off: a defense attorney cross examining an FBI agent.

The state has two witnesses left to present in its case. Once they're done on the stand, the defense will start presenting its case and witnesses to the jury.

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 8 Wrap Up


The FBI agent who lead the investigation into the murder of an FSU law professor has taken center stage in the trial over most of the last two days.

Defense attorneys are questioning every move the FBI made.

FBI Special Agent Paul Sanford took the stand early Monday and finished shortly after noon on Tuesday.

He faced tough questions about whether the dead law professor's ex wife’s family was involved in his murder.

“The Adelson’s wanted it to happen right?” Asked attorney for defendant Katherine Magbanua, Chris DeCoste.

“Correct,” replied Sanford.

The lawyers representing Magbanua and co-defendant Sigfredo Garcia are pushing the idea that the FBI overlooked the possibility that the third defendant, Luis Rivera who was facing the death penalty, was the sole perpetrator.

“He became your witness, right?” Asked DeCoste.

“Right,” replied Sanford.

“In exchange for that needle coming out of his arm, right?” DeCoste shot back.

The lawyers also probed whether the FBI came up with a conspiracy theory and sought to prove it rather than just follow the evidence, arguing Magbanua was arrested just a get to the Adelson Family.

“Charles Adelson was just using Katherine just to find out more information about what was going on with the bump, because she’s expendable. He can use her without any risk to himself?” Asked DeCoste.

“Totally disagree with that,” replied Sanford.

Then comments by attorney Chris DeCoste brought the judge's ire.

“Federal Bureau of Investigation, right?” Asked DeCoste.

“Exactly," replied Sanford.

"Not the Federal Bureau of Intimidation,” replied DeCoste.

“Mr. DeCoste!” Interjected Judge James Hankinson.

One of the unreported aspects of this trial is that this jury has tough questions of just about every witness.

The questions, asked by the judge on behalf of the jurors suggest the jury will also ask tough questions amongst themselves once they get behind closed doors.

Prosecutors have relied heavily on intercepted text and voice communications, and defense lawyers put an expert on the stand who testified that more than 2,000 text messages were missing from Charlie Adelson’s account.

11:30 a.m. update

On cross examination, FBI Special Agent Patrick Sanford testified that neither Katherine Magbanua nor Charlie Adelson ever reported “the bump” to law enforcement and the $5,000 the undercover agent sought in that bogus extortion attempt was never paid.

Defense attorney Chris DeCoste questioned Sanford about why some meetings with witnesses and co-defendant Luis Rivera were recorded and others were not. Sanford said they do not record meetings unless someone is in federal custody or if they have special permission.

Sanford testified that he did not record the first meeting with Rivera at the request of the state attorney's office and did not write a report about it because a TPD Officer there wrote one.

The defense also questioned Sanford about whether Rivera ever mentioned a third trip to Tallahassee involving another gang member.

Sanford said he did not.

10:30 a.m. update

An FBI agent is back on the stand for a second day in the Dan Markel murder case.

Pat Sanford was on the stand for nearly seven hours Monday as prosecutors played a series of wire tap phone conversations involving Katherine Magbanua, Sigfredo Garcia and Charlie Adelson.

Magbanua’s attorney is now cross examining him, suggesting Sanford was viewing this investigation “through dirty windows,” not clean ones and was trying to find evidence that backed up his theory that Magbanua served as a link between the Adelsons and accused killers Garcia and Rivera.

“On its face it looks incriminating,” defense attorney Chris DeCoste said, but claimed it was Rivera’s testimony, “his words and his words only” that led to Magbanua’s arrest.

“That’s incorrect,” Sanford said.

DeCoste asked about the Lexus Magbanua got from Harvey Adelson, showing a car title that lists the mileage as 160,000 miles. The defense contends Magbanua paid for it, but the FBI agent says he found no proof of that.

DeCoste also pressed the FBI agent on the paychecks Magbanua received from the Adelson Institute in September 2014. The defense contends Magbanua called patients for the practice and showed a text message in which Magbanua said she would consider how much time she “could dedicate” to it.

The FBI agent said he could find no phone records to confirm that or find any proof that Magbanua worked at the office or remotely.

DeCoste asked the FBI agent if he believes Magbanua’s breast enhancement surgery was a gift for killing Dan Markel. The FBI agent said yes.

“Miami is the Las Vegas of the east,” DeCoste said. The defense attorney asked the FBI agent if he ever visited the clubs where Magbanua worked as a VIP bottle server and did promotions for liquor companies. Sanford said no.

FBI Special Agent Pat Sanford was grilled about an undercover operation they called “The Bump.” He admitted agents did not make a copy of the flyer that an undercover agent handed to Donna Adelson. Sanford said they should have made a copy or taken a picture of it, but it was an oversight as they rushed out the door. Sanford testified they had been debating until the last minute the amount of money to write on the flyer.

DeCoste pressed the FBI agent about their wire taps of Katherine Magbanua and Charlie Adelson. He asked why the FBI didn’t tap anyone else’s phone.

“Not once does she say anything about being involved in a murder,” DeCoste said of the many recordings.

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