VIDEO: Charlie Adelson testifies in his murder trial; here's what he said

Posted at 8:50 AM, Nov 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-02 18:23:36-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — ABC 27's Kendall Brandt is in the courtroom for witness testimony in the trial of Charlie Adelson. He is accused of hiring hitmen to murder FSU Law professor Dan Markel in 2014 in his Betton Hills home during a custody dispute between Markel and Adelson's sister, Wendi.

Click here for our coverage from when Adelson was arrested last year.

UPDATE 11/2/2023 3:08 P.M.

Defense attorney Dan Rashbaum asked Charlie Adelson what was behind all of the cursing and "tough talk" in the phone calls between him and Magbanua. Rashbaum was referring to talk of Adelson keeping a gun on him at all times and hypothetically saying he would shoot a gang member and get off easy.

"I wanted to let her know I had had enough," Adelson said.

Adelson said he spoke with Magbanua to try and figure out who the blackmailer is that approached Donna on the street. Adelson said Magbanua thought it was law enforcement targeting his family.

UPDATE 11/2/2023 2:59 P.M.

The jury returned from lunch at 1:30 p.m. Adelson took the stand just before 1:45 p.m. to continue defending himself.

Rashbaum tried to admit text messages between Magbanua and Adelson into evidence. Cappleman objected. Everett allowed some of the texts in, but not all.

The defense attorney is playing back some of the evidence phone calls the state used as evidence in their case.

The first phone calls he played were recorded after what investigators call "the bump." This is when an undercover FBI agent approached Charlie's mother, Donna, on the street posing as a blackmailer connected to the murderers.

In the phone calls, Adelson can be heard telling his mother to not speak on the phone in her apartment or around others about the interaction. Adelson said this was because he was told by Magbanua not to tell anyone about the extortion.

Rashbaum also asked if he was using the words "TV," "Brown and Brown Insurance," and "SunPass" were code for some other meaning. Adelson said no.

After the phone calls between Donna and Adelson played, the defense played a call between Magbanua and Adelson.

Adelson claims that he pretended on the phone call to not know for sure if Magbanua was the girlfriend the agent referenced in the bump. He said he did this to make Magbanua feel as if she was not being blamed.

In an interaction a few days after the last phone call, Adelson said he then asked Katie if she knew if Sigfredo Garcia, one of the convicted murderers, was behind the blackmail.

Rashbaum went on to address the Dolce Vita tape. Adelson said there is about 30 minutes of the conversation that the FBI did not capture.

He said he met with Magbanua to talk about their theories on who confronted Donna.

Adelson said he learned of the state's case against him when a probable cause affidavit was leaked to media in 2016.

UPDATE 11/2/2023 11:53 A.M.
Right before lunch break, Rashbaum asked Adelson about Markel's children.

"Do you love your nephews?" Rashbaum asked.

"Of course," Adelson said.

UPDATE 11/2/2023 11:49 A.M.

Rashbaum asked Adelson if gifts given to Magbanua between 2014 and 2016 were payments for extortion. He said no.

"I was trying to keep Katie happy," Adelson said.

Adelson testified that Magbanua constantly complained about money problems. He said he wanted to help her.

Adelson also said her financial issues assured him she was not involved in the extortion at all.

UPDATE 11/2/2023 11:46 A.M.

Adelson testified he decided to put Magbanua on the payroll at the Adelson Institute. He told his mom Donna to do so. Adelson testified that he told his mother that Magbanua would be "..helping out with a few things."

Adelson said he later saw his mother. He said she pressed him further on why Magbanua was getting paid by the practice.

Adelson said he then told her he was being extorted.

"Do not say anything to dad," Adelson said he told his mom. "Don't say anything to Wendi."

Rashbaum asked him how she reacted.

"She flipped out," Adelson said.

Adelson said his mother never talked again about the extortion directly with him.

He said he then continued to pay Magbanua.

"Every single month, when I met her, I gave her $2,000 and a stack of checks," Adelson said.

UPDATE 11/2/2023 11:34 A.M.

Adelson testified that he bought a security camera system for his home and office after the murder.

He said he was worried due to what the defense calls extortion on the part of Katherine Magbanua.

"I was worried about my safety," Adelson said.

"Let's get back to Wendi," defense attorney Dan Rashbaum said.

He then asked Adelson about a dinner he had with his sister.

A couple of days after the murder, Adelson said he took Wendi out to dinner. He said Wendi drank too much which caused her to throw up.

UPDATE 11/2/2023 11:20 A.M.

On the day of the murder, Adelson testified that he spoke with his sister, Wendi, in the morning.

He said he made several phone calls during the drive.

One of those phone calls was to Magbanua. He said he called her to apologize after a fight they got into the night before.

Adelson said he was performing surgeries all day. Around 6, he said he performed a lengthy surgery. He said he missed a call from his mother letting him know Markel had been shot.

Adelson testified that he was shocked. He said he texted friends about how he was upset about the news.

"Did you speak with Katherine Magbanua?" Rashbaum asked.

Adelson said he did and saw her that night.

"She seemed normal," Adelson said. "She seemed concerned."

Adelson said his parents told him they were leaving to go to Tallahassee to see Wendi.

Text records show Adelson's mother, Donna, texting him that she was outside his house. Adelson testified that meant she was passing his home on the highway, not actually waiting outside.

Adelson said Magbanua came over to his home that night.

He testified that Magbanua told him it was all her fault. Adelson said Magbanua told him she told friends too much information about his sister and her divorce. He testitifed that Magbanua then told him that her friends killed Markel.

Adelson then said Magbanua told him her friends would kill him or someone in his family if he told anyone. He said she then demanded a third of $1 million for her friends.

Adelson said he did not have that kind of cash on him. According to his testimony, Magbanua then asked if he could pay $3,000 a month. Adelson said he agreed.

Adelson said he let Magbanua stay the night. He said he was too in shock to make her leave. Adelson testified that he stayed home the whole next day and took Xanax to calm down.

"I was just real upset," Adelson said.

Rashbaum asked why he did not go to the police.

"I thought they would kill me," Adelson said.

Adelson said he texted Magbanua the next day. He said he did this to make everything seem normal to protect himself.

UPDATE 11/2/2023 11:00 A.M.

Court went back into session after a small break. During recess, on-lookers in the gallery chatted among each other. Rashbaum, the defense attorney, spoke with a few people watching.

Rashbaum continued his direct examination with asking Adelson about text conversations with Magbanua shortly before the murder.

Adelson said there were no talks of violence or panic in those conversations.

He testified that he picked up Magbanua on July 1st of 2014. Adelson said a car cut them off outside of Magbanua's home. He said the driver was Sigfredo Garcia.

Adelson said Garcia screamed obscenities at him. He said Garcia followed Adelson for a few moments.

That day, Adelson said his father told him he got a strange message from a man that threatened him. Records reveal later that was Garcia.

This was just 17 days before the murder.

Adelson said he worked long hours on the day of July 16, 2014. He said him and Magbanua got into a fight over what he was doing into the late hours of the evening.

The defendant testified that Magbanua then invited him out to dinner in Miami the next day. Adelson said she was adamant about having dinner in a specific area.

Adelson said he pushed back and said it would be too far of a drive. After, he said he and Magbanua got into another large fight.

UPDATE 11/2/2023 10:12 A.M.

As he enters his second hour of testimony, Adelson said he wanted to slow things down with Magbanua in early 2014.

Despite this, Adelson said he did go to dinner with Magbanua, his sister Wendi and her new boyfriend, Jeffrey Lacsssee. Adelson said he repeated the hitman joke at dinner.

Rashbaum asked him if he was aware Garcia and Luis Rivera, who has also been convicted for the murder, were watching Adelson in the parking lot that night.

Adelson said no.

Rashbaum then asked Adelson if he remembers why his mother called him in April or May and asked him to delete the message. Adelson said Donna was with his father and wanted to discuss the birthday gift they were going to get him for his 70th birthday.

The texts show discussion of hiring a caterer. Adelson said that was part of his gift for his father. He said the caterer cooked paella.

UPDATE 11/2/2023 9:44 A.M.

Court is now in session for the testimony of Charlie Adelson. He was just sworn in for the second time after being sworn in Wednesday afternoon.

Adelson took the stand around 8:52 a.m. The first question his defense attorney Dan Rashbaum asked him was if he had anything to do with the death of Dan Markel.

"Absolutely not," Adelson said.

Rashbaum asked him how he was feeling.

"Very nervous," Adelson said.

Rashbaum then moved on to ask Adelson about his background.

Adelson testified that he came from an upper middle class family. In 1992, he said his dad lost a lot of money.

After graduating from UCF, Adelson said went to dental school. Southeastern in Fort Lauderdale. He also said he went to school to be a periodontist beyond dental school.

He joined his father Harvey at his practice. It was renamed the "Adelson Institute." He then bought the practice in 2012.

Around the time of the murder, Adelson said work came first for him. He testified that his best financial years were 2013 through 2015. In 2014, Adelson said his income was around $900,000.

He said his habits included taking any dental jobs he could, going to the gym late at night and going out once a week, usually on Saturday nights.

Adelson said he met Markel in a deli with Wendi. He said his first thoughts were that he was a nice guy and similar to other men his sister had dated in the past.

Adelson testified he rarely visited Tallahassee to see Markel and his sister.

Adelson said he found out about the divorce shortly before Wendi filed. He said Wendi told him her and Markel had been to couple's counseling for six months prior to the filing.

The defendant said he heard 80% of his information about Wendi and Markel's relationship from his mom, Donna.

Rashbaum asked him how Wendi was during the divorce.

"Extremely stressed," Adelson said.

His defense attorney later asked him if he was aware of the request for relocation of his nephews.

Adelson said that was not something he felt was important for his life. He said it was a different story with his parents.

"To them, it was very important," Adelson said.

He said his family did look at giving $1 million to Markel to allow for relocation of the children. Adelson said part of the plan was for him to pay a third of that and leave the rest up to his parents.

Adelson said he was making more money than his parents at the time.

He said he did joke about hiring a hitman to kill Markel. Adelson testified that he did not look into to hiring one.

"I said it as a complete joke and it was stupid," Adelson said. "I do that a lot."

Rashbaum then went back to asking him about the divorce. He asked how Donna felt about the situation.

"She would get upset when she would tell her about Danny pushing her buttons," Adelson said.

Adelson testified that he remembers his sister being excited about continuing to live in Tallahassee after the divorce.

"She was embarking on her new life in Tallahassee," Adelson said.

He said he met Katie Magbanua in 2013 at Sofi Dental in South Beach. Adelson said she was the front desk manager at the practice, which he traveled to work at.

"Katie was really cute," Adelson said. "She was friendly."

"Did you ask her two weeks later if she could find someone to kill Professor Markel?" Rashbaum asked.

"Absolutely not," Adelson said.

He said he would talk to her every day when they were dating between 2013 and 2014.

Adelson testified that Magbanua met his sister Wendi twice. He said she met his parents about eight times.

Rashbaum asked if Magbanua ever worked at his dental practice.

"Never," Adelson said.

His attorney displayed text messages between Magbanua and Adelson.

The texts from 2013 show Magbanua telling Adelson that her ex, Sigfredo Garcia, knows who Adelson is. Garcia was convicted for Markel's murder in 2019.

Adelson testified that Magbanua came over one night and had a scratch on her neck. He said Magbanua told him Garcia had pulled a necklace off of her neck during a fight.

Rashbaum asked if this contributed to the end of Adelson and Magbanua's relationship. He said yes.