Paul L. Caron

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Police Reach Out To Feds As Tensions Flare With Prosecutor Over Decision Not To Charge Adelson Family In Markel Murder; Ex-Brother-in-Law Discussed Killing Undercover Agent

Adelson Family

Following up on yesterday's post, Adelson Family Will Not Be Charged In Dan Markel's Murder Despite Circumstantial Evidence Released By Police (Including $1 Million Offer To Allow Children To Move To Miami, Communication And Money Trail To Hit Men):

Tallahassee Democrat, Tensions Flare in Markel Case After Unexpected Document Drop:

After two years of investigation into the murder-for-hire plot of Dan Markel, prosecutors are unlikely to approve the arrest of his former in-laws.

Police chipped away at leads, drafting arrest affidavits filled with evidence laying out investigators’ case against Charlie and Donna Adelson, the brother and mother of Markel’s ex-wife Wendi Adelson.

Documents detailing their theories were made public Thursday.

But State Attorney Willie Meggs said the speculations of police investigators do not make a case for murder. 

TPD's release of the documents is an indication of the tension between police — who have devoted extensive resources to piece together evidence — and prosecutors, who must rely on that evidence to try to secure a conviction.

Police have said since May, Charlie and Donna Adelson were involved in Markel’s 2014 shooting, which followed his acrimonious divorce and their deep desire to move the couple's two young children closer to them in South Florida. ...

The documents released Thursday ... go into great detail about phone conversations between co-conspirators and police interpretations of what those conversations meant.

But that’s the problem, Meggs said. It’s what investigators say, not necessarily what the evidence shows. Making the jump from theories to formal charges is a big leap. “If they believe that somebody said something and we’re supposed to adopt what an officer thinks and arrest somebody, that’s not the way it works," Meggs said.

After Meggs declined to approve probable cause for the arrest of Magbanua and Charlie Adelson, sources in the State ’s Office confirmed TPD began seeking the authority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida.

Sources also say portions of the investigation that could have led to Magbanua’s arrest were bungled, primarily the chance to speak with her in the days before Garcia’s May 25 arrest. ...

Meggs said the documents released Thursday were working documents and should not have been made public.

TPD spokesman David Northway, however, said they were part of evidentiary discovery given to Garcia and Rivera’s defense attorney’s making them public. “Our job is to collect the evidence,” Northway said. “It’s the job of the State Attorney’s Office to determine if the case could be tried in a court of law.”

Meggs’ office and TPD have sparred since Garcia’s summer arrest. ... Meggs said those disagreements continue, but until police gather more substantial evidence that can be proven in court, there would likely be no more arrests in Markel's killing.

Officers can arrest Magbanua or the Adelsons without a warrant because they face felony charges, Meggs added. “If they believe they have probable cause then they should go make the arrest. They don’t need me,” Meggs said. “I would say to Chief (Michael) DeLeo go make the arrest and get ready for your civil suit from whoever they have arrested without probable cause.'”

Capitol News Service, Murder For Hire Case Has New Twists and Turns:

The probable cause affidavits detail a flurry of activity between the mother of accused killer Sigfredo Garcia kids, Katherine Magbanua and Charlie Adelson, the former brother in law of slain professor Dan Markel.

They have been suspects since the beginning, and on the day the two alleged hit men were indicted we asked State Attorney Willie Meggs about charges against the Adelson family. “They were not indicted….today” he said.

Police believe Brother in law Charles Adelson, who dated Magbanua for more than a year coordinated the murder through the woman. She has made more than 56 thousand dollars in mostly cash deposits since the murder.

The new information even shows police sent an undercover agent to the former mother in law, telling her telling her they knew about the crime, demanding five thousand dollars to keep quite. That contact prompted Charles Adelson to meet with Magbanua and discuss killing the undercover agent.

Still, State Attorney Meggs says there are too many opinions than not enough facts in the probable cause documents. “You know what we need in this is somebody to testify about those events, not what the officer believes from drawing his conclusions” says Meggs today.

An Attorney for accused hit man Luis Rivera, Charles Cooper, was asked this week if Rivera might cooperate in the case..
“No, there is no indication that he will be a cooperating defendants. I mean, they are seeking the death penalty against him” says the lawyer.

Above the Law, The Murder Of Dan Markel: The Case Against Donna Adelson:

My guess is that Dan, a devoted father to his two sons, would not have taken [the $1 million]. But police apparently believe this shows the strength of what they’ve previously called the Adelson family’s “desperate desire” for Wendi and the boys to escape Tallahassee and move down to the Miami area (as they ultimately did, after Markel was murdered). ...

Police say Katherine Magabanua, the mother of Garcia’s children and a former girlfriend of Charlie Adelson, is the link between the hitmen and the family. Following the murder, Rivera and Garcia purchased several cars and motorcycles around the same time Magbanua began receiving paychecks from the family’s dentistry practice. The checks were handwritten and signed by Donna Adelson. ...

Based on what Wendi Adelson has previously said about her mother, Donna Adelson sounds like a strong, formidable, controlling woman, with a seemingly unlimited devotion to her family and what she thinks best for them. The police presumably view Donna as not someone who would sign checks without knowing why or just because she was told to sign them (assuming her signatures weren’t forged).

Also, $56,000 — not counting other in-kind payments, such as half the cost of Magbanua’s breast implants — is not an insignificant amount of money. It’s not the kind of money that someone throws around on a whim. Yes, the Adelsons are wealthy, thanks to a successful dentistry practice and real estate investing, and you can tell they have money based on their high-priced defense lawyers and the $1 million they were reportedly willing to pay Dan to let Wendi and the boys move to South Florida. But they’re not billionaires. ...

[A] flurry of calls between the Adelsons, Magbanua, and Garcia — all within 90 minutes of Dan’s shooting, which had not yet been made public — is noteworthy. ...

[P]rosecutors have considered bringing charges against the Adelsons and Katherine Magbanua — and have made a conscious decision not to charge any of them, at least for the time being. ...

Whether or not they are ever brought to justice, whoever who ordered Danny Markel’s murder will — and should — have to live with that guilt for the rest of their lives. May the memory of what they did be a curse.

Above the Law, The Dan Markel Case: The Probable Cause Affidavit For Charlie Adelson:

Based on the above information, this investigator belives there is sufficient evidence to prove Charles Adelson, Katherine Magbanua, Sigfredo Garcia, and Luis Rivera are responsible for the murder of Daniel Markel.

That’s the final line of the twenty-four page probable cause affidavit in the investigation of the murder of Professor Dan Markel. ...

Charlie Adelson called Katherine Magbanua immediately after speaking with his mother Donna Adelson, presumably to discuss the shooting of Dan Markel. Investigators view this as “significant” in light of their belief that “Magbanua was the person that facilitated the homicide in that she is the link between Charlie Adelson and the shooters.” But Charlie would probably respond that it would be only natural for him to call his girlfriend with such major news. ...

I had received this report of Wendi changing the boys’ names some time ago, but from a source of mine on an “off the record” basis. Now that it’s in the PC affidavit, it can be reported. It strikes me as a sad attempt by Wendi to sever her boys’ remaining ties to their father and his side of the family. ...

I previously expressed curiosity about how an undercover agent was able to speak to the Adelsons about the Markel murder. The affidavit is a little cryptic, but it sounds like the agent made a blackmail threat to the Adelsons related to the killing. ...

State Attorney Willie Meggs has so far declined to approve arrest warrants for Katherine Magbanua or any of the Adelsons, dismissing theories implicating any of them as “speculation.” But no legal doctrine — no statute of limitations, no double jeopardy (jeopardy hasn’t attached), no speedy-trial concern (the clock hasn’t started running) — prevents Meggs from changing his mind about suspects he has not yet charged. Indeed, sources have told the Tallahassee Democrat to expect more arrests in this case.

Here’s an opinion that one of our Florida sources shared with us after reading the affidavit:

This seems like enough evidence [to make some moves]. However, Willie is a very, very good prosecutor (and former cop), and he doesn’t want to blow the one and only chance the state would get in this murder to prosecute. Better to sit and wait, and let the stress and strain uncover what it will. I think we have a very cool game of cat and mouse going on, and Willie is a master.

But whoever ordered the murder of Dan Markel — someone who has managed to escape arrest or prosecution for more than two years, someone who has not yet cracked under pressure — is no dummy either. Whether this cat catches his mouse, or whether someone will literally get away with murder, remains to be seen.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

Legal Education | Permalink


I hope he's right. There are enough people involved to assume that someone will eventually crack. On the other hand, the Adelsons can afford the very best representatives.

That may (or may not) be decisive in keeping them out of prison. It's not going to save that dental practice. Remember the Emmett Till case. Those defendants were turned loose by a Mississippi jury. That accomplished, the town ostracized them. Their retail business collapsed as local blacks boycotted their store and local whites would not rent land to them. They had to leave town.

The situation is not precisely analogous. The Bryants bragged about killing Till. That hasn't happened here, and just who in the Adelson nexus is guilty of what is quite murky. What is known is that it taxes the imagination to conjure up a sequence of events which does not commence with one of the putting a contract out on Prof. Markel. That's not enough to put them in prison, but it might just be enough to persuade their patients that they are impure, an impression that is injurious to a trust-invested enterprise such as the one they are in.

Posted by: Art Deco | Sep 13, 2016 11:59:13 AM

"Willie is a very, very good prosecutor (and former cop), and he doesn’t want to blow the one and only chance the state would get in this murder to prosecute."

I hope he's right. There are enough people involved to assume that someone will eventually crack. On the other hand, the Adelsons can afford the very best representatives.

Posted by: Sooke | Sep 12, 2016 3:24:52 PM

Schematically similar to the Ramsey case in Boulder, Colo., insofar as the prosecutor is putting the brakes on the police. (Different as well, as their is no indication that the Adelsons are a white whale for the police force).

Posted by: Art Deco | Sep 12, 2016 1:56:23 PM

Jim Comey said no charges would be filed because there was no evidence of intent.

Posted by: Anon | Sep 10, 2016 7:41:50 PM