The Dan Markel Case: No Bail For Charlie Adelson
Plus a new recording of Harvey Adelson, and two new books about the tragedy and its aftermath.
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Last Friday, Charles Adelson, the alleged mastermind behind the 2014 murder of his brother-in-law, Professor Dan Markel, asked to be released on bail. Adelson’s lawyer, Daniel Rashbaum, argued to Judge Robert Wheeler that the case against Adelson was “purely circumstantial.”
Charlie Adelson was arrested for Markel’s murder in April of this year, even though he had been a suspect for much longer—at least since September 2016, when a probable-cause affidavit for Adelson made its way to the media. Rashbaum claimed that nothing has changed since 2016, a point in time when the state felt it lacked sufficient evidence to arrest Charlie.
“Sure, there have been convictions, but none have offered direct evidence against Mr. Adelson,” Rashbaum argued. “All those years the state felt Mr. Adelson was not a flight risk. The state felt he was not a danger to the community. Nothing has changed. Not one single witness establishes Mr. Adelson’s involvement.”
But it’s not really the case that nothing has changed since 2016. Additional evidence against Charlie Adelson emerged between September 2016 and April 2022—most notably, an enhanced version of the so-called Dolce Vita recording, in which Adelson was caught making all sorts of incriminating statements while speaking with one of his alleged co-conspirators, Katherine Magbanua.
When Judge Wheeler denied the bond motion at the conclusion of Friday’s one-hour hearing, he cited the Dolce Vita recording: “Not only is there direct evidence from the Dolce Vita video and the statements therein, but there is also a wealth of circumstantial evidence against the defendant.”
Speaking of new evidence in the form of surreptitious recordings, at the hearing lead prosecutor Georgia Cappleman played a previously nonpublic video of Charlie Adelson speaking with his father, Harvey Adelson, the day after Charlie met with Katie Magbanua. This is interesting because observers of the case have long wondered how much knowledge or involvement Harvey had regarding the murder. (We have long known of the involvement of Charlie and his mother Donna Adelson; the roles played by Harvey Adelson and Markel’s ex-wife Wendi Adelson are less clear.)
The duo met at Matsuri in Miami and while being recorded by undercover officers, discuss who the police are likely to talk to about the murder. The full context of the video is unclear, but Harvey Adelson appears to divulge an agreement between his son and Magbanua.
“They wouldn’t want to talk to Wendi, so you’re the next to talk to,” Charlie Adelson said in the brief video. “One or the other but the woman is usually the weaker choice? You know, the one that is going to give in, so it is what it is.”
“That’s what Katie agreed with you?” Harvey Adelson replies.
“Yeah,” Charlie Adelson replies. “That’s where you’re at. I… the thing is… I actually think it’s a… you knew at some point… Somebody they had to reach out, had to do something. So there has to be some kind of tactic to come in to… to the introduction.”
The video ends shortly after Charlie Adelson says: “I think there’s a recorder in that bag.”
Whether or not Harvey Adelson knew in advance about the murder plot or was involved in planning it, the new recording suggests that he became aware of it at some point.
For those of you who have followed this case as obsessively as I have, this month and next month bring two new books about the case. I have preordered both (and you can do so as well via the links below).
First, the memoir of Dan Markel’s mother, Ruth Markel, will be published on September 20. In The Unveiling, Ruth describes her heartbreaking experiences since Dan’s murder, including “painful reminders, a rollercoaster of hearings, frequently changing trial dates, verdicts, and appeals,” as well as the struggle to see her two grandchildren—and her successful effort to get the Florida State Legislature to pass a grandparent visitation bill that could help grandparents who find themselves suffering similarly in the future. I have long admired Ruth Markel for how she has endured unspeakable tragedy with dignity and grace, and I look forward to reading The Unveiling.
Second, Extreme Punishment, the book about the Markel case by lawyer turned true-crime writer Steven B. Epstein, will be published on October 9–which would have been Dan’s fiftieth birthday. Here’s an excerpt from my foreword:
Meticulously researched and beautifully written, Extreme Punishment is now the definitive account of Dan’s life and death, the standard against which all future tellings will be measured.
It would be hard to imagine someone better situated than Steve to write this book. First, Steve is a former law professor. The world of legal academia is a specific and insular world; as someone who lived in it during the mid-1990s, Steve knows it well….
Second, Steve is an experienced and talented author. He has published two acclaimed true-crime books, Murder on Birchleaf Drive, about the murder of Michelle Young, and Evil at Lake Seminole, about the murder of Mike Williams—which also took place in Tallahassee.
Third, as you will learn, an ugly divorce lies at the epicenter of the plot to murder Dan, and the story culminates with the trials of some of Dan’s murderers. Steve is now a matrimonial and trial lawyer with more than three decades of experience, which gives him special insight into the legal battles at the beginning and end of this story.
I wish nobody had to tell this tale. But since it is being told—and should be told, to honor Dan’s legacy—I am thankful to Steve for doing so with such thoughtfulness, understanding, and skill.
Of course, the story of bringing all of Dan Markel’s murderers to justice is not yet over. The next chapter will be the trial of Charlie Adelson, expected to start in the first quarter of 2023. Let us hope and pray that the ending of this chapter features a just result.
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