Guilty on 3 counts: Charlie Adelson found guilty in the murder of Dan Markel

Posted at 5:07 PM, Nov 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-07 08:09:40-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — A jury has found Charles Adelson guilty on three counts in connection with the death of Florida State professor Dan Markel.

Count 1 Guilty: First degree murder.

Count 2 Guilty: Conspiracy to commit first degree murder.

Count 3 Guilty: Solicitation to commit first degree murder.

Adelson was found guilty after less than four hours of deliberation.

Police say Adelson hired hitmen to murder Markel in 2014 in his Betton Hills home during a custody dispute between Markel and Adelson's sister, Wendi.

Three other people are currently serving time in Markel's death.

In May 2022, Katherine Magbanua was found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation to commit murder connected to Markel's death. She is serving a life sentence.

Magbanua was accused of being a point person between Adelson and Sigfredo Garcia.

Garcia was found guilty in October 2019 for shooting and killing Markel. He is serving life in state prison for his role in the murder.

Luis Rivera previously accepted a plea deal in 2016 for his role in the murder of Markel in exchange for his testimony. For his part in Markel's death, he is serving a 19 year sentence.

We spoke with the family of Dan Markel moments after the verdict was read.

Phil Markel, Dan's father, said this has been a long time coming.

"It's been so long, nine years," Markel said. "We got to this point and it's just a good feeling."

The Markels also released this statement about the outcome of the trial:

Today a jury found Charles Adelson guilty of first-degree murder. It has been more than nine years since Danny was brutally murdered in cold blood, and it has taken a tremendous effort to get to this point.

We are grateful to State Attorney Jack Campbell, who has demonstrated extraordinary focus and leadership. And we are forever indebted to prosecutors Georgia Cappleman and Sarah Kathryn Dugan, along with Rachel Jankowski and Eddie Evans, who have been the public face of the team fighting hard for so many years, to Helene Potlock for guiding us so kindly through this process, and to the entire team at the Leon County State Attorney’s Office.

To law enforcement including Pat Sanford, Craig Isom, Jason Newlin, Chris Corbitt, and so many others, thank you for your commitment to truth. We are also appreciative of the Honorable Stephen Everett for administering such a seamless trial, and to the jury for their attention, commitment, and thoughtful deliberation.

Danny loved the Tallahassee community, which has embraced our family throughout this quest for justice. We are so very grateful for the steadfast support of the Tallahassee community, the online community (especially Justice for Dan), and the media.

While nothing will ever repair the hole torn in our hearts when Danny was stolen from us, we appreciate all those near and far who have joined our family in seeking justice for Dan, and in keeping his memory alive with such dedication. And we are thankful for the support and encouragement we have received from friends and family around the world.

With deepest gratitude,

The Markel Family

Below: Check out ABC 27's Kendall Brandt's live courtroom updates leading up to the verdict.

UPDATE 11/6/2023 1:45 P.M.

After Cappleman gave her rebuttal, the jurors were read final instructions before going to the jury room to decide the fate of Charlie Adelson.

UPDATE 11/6/2023 1:42 P.M.

Rashbaum wrapped up his final words to the jurors before they decide Charlie Adelson's fate.

He told the jurors that they need to listen to their common sense to decide a verdict.

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman then spoke to the jurors one last time to rebut the defense's argument.

Cappleman is arguing that the defense is trying to confuse the jurors. She reiterated that they can only not convict based on reasonable doubt.

She made points to clarify any evidence that was disputed by the defense. Those pieces included addressing the location of cell phone pings on towers, text messages made and conversations between the defendant and others on the phone.

Cappleman also cast doubt on why Adelson never talked to the police.

"Why not come forward when Katherine Magbanua was arrested?" Cappleman asked.

She said Adelson is a smart man who has had several years to think about his defense.

"Don't let the way the defendant thought he was going to get away with it let him get away with it," Cappleman said.

UPDATE 11/6/2023 12:36 P.M.

Defense attorney Dan Rashbaum faced the jurors to begin his closing argument.

He is making his final push for Charlie Adelson's innocence.

"Sometimes the simple answer is the wrong answer," Rashbaum said. "Sometimes things aren't so simple."

Rashbaum said the state's evidence does not quite line up. He brought up his several motions to bring emails and texts into evidence. The state objected to these many times.

"Ask yourself what they were afraid for you to see," Rashbaum said.

He said the payment method does not line up with hiring hitmen.

"If this was a murder for hire, why was payment not made before?" Rashbaum asked the jury.

He said there are too many missing pieces.

"Reasonable doubt," Rashbaum said.

The defense attorney moved on to talk about Katherine Magbanua's credibility. He pointed out that she lied during interviews with law enforcement and in her first two trials.

"They're going to have you base his freedom on this woman's word." Rashbaum said.

He said Adelson trusted Magbanua. This lead him to say that is why Adelson never called law enforcement or worried about anyone hurting him.

Rashbaum mentioned what he called a lack of questioning by the state about the tapped phone calls and the Dolce Vita conversation.

"The truth is that they have doubt," Rashbaum said. "That's why it took them six years after her (Magbanua's) arrest to even charge Charlie Adelson."

Next, the defense attorney turned his attention to the tapped phone calls.

Rashbaum said Adelson knew nothing when his mother first called him about what the defense calls the second extortion. He is referring to an incident where an undercover FBI agent approached Charlie's mother, Donna, on the street posing as a blackmailer.

He said Adelson admits his innocence several times in those tapped phone calls and the video from Dolce Vita.

"What he is saying is that they think I did a murder for hire, but I was extorted," Rashbaum said. "He didn't lie or flee, unlike Katherine Magbanua."

Rashbaum then moved on to speak about witnesses called by the state. He said he did not cross many of them because he did not dispute what they said about the murder.

"These people that killed him were animals. We agree that the police work was phenomenal," Rashbaum said. "That's why they caught the three people who did this."

UPDATE 11/6/2023 11:20 A.M.

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman started her opening statement.

She kicked off by saying the defense can't poke holes in the evidence. Cappleman said things like texts with the murderers are a giveaway.

"This proves he was in cahoots with Katherine Magbanua," Cappleman said. "That stuff is undeniable, right?"

Adelson claims Magbanua and her friends, Luis Rivera and Sigfredo Garcia, killed Markel to threaten him out of one-third of a million dollars.

Cappleman said his story is far fetched.

"Why not just rob and murder him if they hate him?" Cappleman asked the jury.

The prosecutor then moved on to note that there is only one victim in this case.

"This is Dan Markel. He is the victim in this case. A brilliant lawyer, a funny guy," Cappleman said. "The only thing he was guilty of was fighting like hell."

She said paths lead to Adelson quickly during the investigation.

"The Adelson family is full of psychological warfare," Cappleman said. "When all else failed, they were willing to go even further to win."

The winning Cappleman is talking about: the Adelson family succeeding in relocating their daughter Wendi with Markel's kids.

"This situation was a pressure cooker and it was about to blow," Cappleman said.

Cappleman noted that Markel filed a motion to not allow Wendi's parents to see the children just a couple months before the murder.

"Whether or not that is a coincidence in timing is up to you to decide," Cappleman said.

The assistant state attorney said Donna Adelson, Charlie's mom, was "...in his ear..." about her daughter's divorce with Markel.

"Equal parts black sheep and mama's boy, she would try to help Wendi at his mother's footing," Cappleman said.

Cappleman continued to refresh the jurors on evidence presented in witness testimony.

"How many explanations can you string together before it is no longer reasonable?" Cappleman questioned.

She closed by telling the jurors that Adelson is not sufferring.

"This defendant is not a victim, he's a criminal," Cappleman said. "He is wealthy, he is smart, he is successful. He is a wealthy, smart, successful murderer."

UPDATE 11/6/2023 9:12 A.M.

The last step before jury deliberation in the trial of accused murderer Charlie Adelson began Monday morning just before 9 a.m.

Judge Stephen Everett read jurors their instructions for delibeartion. The 12 of the 15 jurors will decide the verdict after closing arguments.