Dan Markel murder: Undercover FBI, wiretaps take center stage on Day 5 | Livestream, updates

  • In US
  • 2022-05-24 12:48:27Z
  • By Tallahassee Democrat

GAVEL-TO-GAVEL COVERAGE: The Tallahassee Democrat will livestream each day of the trial of Katherine Magbanua from the courthouse in Tallahassee. Watch on Tallahassee.com and on our Facebook page. For best viewing experience, download the Tallahassee Democrat app to watch and receive text alerts on when to watch - from opening arguments to the verdict. If you are having trouble seeing the livestream, click here.

Katherine Magbanua faces a jury again in the murder of acclaimed Florida State law professor Dan Markel. The second week of trial testimony starts today.

In the retrial that began on May 18, Magbanua faces charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation of murder in connection with Markel's broad-daylight shooting in July 2014.

She is suspected of being the conduit between the hitmen and Markel's former in-laws who have been implicated as the masterminds and financiers of what investigators say was a murder for hire.

Magbanua trial recap: Cell phone web in Magbanua retrial spotlight on Day 4 

Dan Markel murder: Rivera, inconsistencies, cell phone trail in retrial spotlight on Day 3 | recap

Day 2 recap: 'End the madness': Dan Markel's ex-wife Wendi Adelson says 'I have done nothing wrong'

Retrial opens: Day 1 trial tick-tock of opening arguments, first witnesses

What follows is a regularly updated reporter's notebook account of the day's proceedings from Karl Etters, who has covered all the twists in the case for the last seven years. Follow him on Twitter here.

8:30 a.m. | Wiretaps and 'The Bump' expected in testimony today

Prosecutors are wading through their final few witnesses, intent on resting their case Wednesday, but today they'll to spotlight the hardest hitting evidence the state says points to Magbanua.

Jurors will hear a series of FBI wiretap phone calls this afternoon between Markel's former in-laws Charlie Adelson and Donna Adelson, Magbanua and Sigfredo Garcia which follow an undercover FBI operation dubbed "The Bump."

The Adelsons have been implicated as the masterminds and financiers behind the plot to kill the acclaimed law professor. Only Charlie Adelson, Markel's former brother-in-law, has been charged.

More: Dan Markel murder: Read the transcript and watch the video that prompted charges against Charlie Adelson

Katherine Magbanua and Charlie Adelson
Katherine Magbanua and Charlie Adelson  

The FBI, eager to get suspects talking about the case, sent an undercover agent to intercept Donna Adelson and hand her a piece of paper with an article about Markel's murder and "$5,000" written on it. The agent mentioned Magbanua, referred to killer Luis Rivera by his nickname and insinuated he wanted money to stay quiet.

What followed was phone calls between Magbanua, Charlie Adelson and Donna Adelson and convicted hitman Garcia which the state says are evidence of coordinating how to deal with the agents, who they suspected but did not know were law enforcement.

They say Magbanua and Charlie Adelson speak in code throughout to avoid explicit conversations about the crime.

Garcia was convicted of Markel's murder in 2019 and is serving a life sentence. Rivera is a cooperating witness and took a plea deal. Rivera was already serving a 12-year sentence in an unrelated case when he pleaded guilty to murder in exchange for an additional seven years

More: Dan Markel murder 'middleman'? Conflicting portraits of Katherine Magbanua emerge in trial opener

Magbanua's attorney Tara Kawass, however, told jurors in opening statements that the calls are cherry picked from hundreds and show her client is unaware of the murder-for-hire plot.

Depending on timing, jurors will then hear the Dulce Vida tape, a secretly recorded conversation between Charlie Adelson and Magbanua at a Miami restaurant by the same name.

The tape was recently enhanced, which led to Charlie Adelson's arrest last month, and prosecutors say it clearly depicts he and Magbanua discussing the homicide.

During the conversation, Charlie Adelson told Magbanua that the man who intercepted his mom was a blackmailer.

Rather than going to the cops, Adelson suggested, she should get Garcia, who is the father of Magbanua's children, to kill the man. Adelson said he'd be willing to pay "whatever it takes" to get rid of the blackmailer.

Prosecutors in their opening argument said after Adelson gave her "very precise instructions" on dealing with the blackmailer, Magbanua's words are largely inaudible on the secret recording.

Kawass said the secret video amounts to nothing against their client and "leaves you with more of a question mark than answers."

Also expected to testify today is Rivera's one-time girlfriend Jessica Rodriguez, who didn't testify in the previous trial, and financial investigator Mary Hull.

Hull is likely to testify about Magbanua's bank records around the time of the murder.

From 2019: Dan Markel murder: Prosecutors lay out alleged payments

They showed a spike in cash deposits to Katherine Magbanua's bank account, more than $41,000 in the year after Markel's July 2014 murder and more than $17,000 in checks from the Adelson Institute, which investigators say were part of the murder-for-hire payment.

Some jailhouse phone calls admitted for impeachment, others excluded at '11th Hour'

On Monday, Circuit Judge Robert Wheeler ruled that jailhouse phone calls in the week before the trial between Kawass and Garcia cannot be used by prosecutors in trial because they constituted defense "work product."

Garcia is likely to be called to the stand by the defense later this week meaning his conversations with attorneys come with an expectation of privacy.

Prosecutors brought them and a handful of other calls between Garcia and Magbanua and he and his mom forward on Friday but Wheeler ruled the late disclosure was an intentional evidence violation.

Wheeler also denied the use of recorded phone calls in Spanish saying it was "too late in the game" to allow them to be admitted as court officials scrambled Monday to start translating them.

"We're having to go through this whole process in the 11th hour," Wheeler said. "The process we're going through and the transcription is more prejudicial. I'm not going to permit those to be admitted."

The calls which are being admitted, likely those between Garcia and Magbanua, prosecutors intend to use to challenge statements either one of them make during their testimony.

Contact Karl Etters at ketters@tallahassee.com or @KarlEtters on Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Dan Markel murder: Katherine Magbanua trial Day 5 livestream, updates


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