Let’s set the record straight on the opinion piece authored by Ben Graber in The Tallahassee Democrat and quoted by The Miami Herald. Here’s the background on who Ben Graber really is, relative to the Adelson family.
Authorities have named multiple members of the family as involved in the 2014 murder of FSU law professor Dan Markel, including: Wendi, the victim’s ex-wife, along with her brother Charlie (who was convicted of the murder in November) and her mother Donna (who was arrested while trying to flee to a non-extradition country about a week later).
Graber represented himself as a friend of the Adelson family for 40 years. Not so.
Graber had no personal contact with the Adelson family for decades — 25-plus years — prior to penning this misguided attestation of their collective innocence. In fact, before Graber reached out to Harvey last week to offer his “assistance,” he had to contact another person to get Harvey’s number.
Graber never met Dan Markel. He was not invited to Dan and Wendi’s wedding. Graber was not in contact with any Adelson during the duration of Wendi’s marriage.
In other words, Graber was not a “40 year friend” – rather he’s a former friend who only days ago reconnected after a lengthy (and politically complicated) hiatus from contact.
And it gets weirder from there.
Graber’s narrative about the “true” motive for the murder – what he describes as a twisted love triangle between Charlie, Katherine Magbanua (convicted of her role as middleman in the conspiracy), and Sigfredo Garcia (convicted for shooting Markel) – is a figment of Graber’s imagination and directly contradicts the sworn (albeit untenable) testimony of Charlie Adelson, the defendant himself.
Charlie’s defense was that he had been extorted by Garcia who was motivated by the hopes of a $333,000 payout. In Charlie’s telling of the story, he paid Garcia and his accomplice Luis Rivera $138,000 up front out of fear for his life, and promised the remainder be paid out over time — a narrative that was swiftly dismissed by a 12-person jury.
Graber’s “love triangle” story reads like the family’s attempt to find or workshop an alternative defense for Donna – one that also fits around the irrefutable facts of the case but is equally unfathomable.
In Graber’s story, Garcia was jealous of Katie’s relationship with Charlie, so he set out to kill Charlie’s sister’s ex-husband in order to get Charlie pinned for the crime.
There are multiple problems with the logic of this story. After Garcia shot Markel, he returned to Miami and about two years passed in which nothing really happened – Charlie remained in continual contact with Katie, and no attempts to frame the Adelson family were made. No gun was planted at Charlie’s house, no messages were sent to pit law enforcement on his trail. Instead, the many participants in this crime carried on with their lives, happily it appears, until it became clear that the FBI was onto them, and even then, no efforts were made by Garcia or his accomplices to make Charlie take the fall for setting the murder into motion.
It’s unclear why Graber, a medical doctor and former lawmaker, would insert himself into this case with a storyline that on its face lacks reason and defies every other piece of evidence. That alone should raise eyebrows about Graber’s motives or mindset.
Graber also failed to disclose various political relationships between himself, the Adelsons, and other families with ties to this murder case. Harvey once served as treasurer for one of Graber’s campaigns. Harvey had also been supportive of the political career of his best friend, Peter Weinstein, a former State Senator turned Chief Judge in Broward County, who is also Wendi’s godfather. The Adelsons benefited significantly from their relationships with powerful people.
And then, in 1996, major discord between the families occurred. Graber ran for Congress against Weinstein and Robert Wexler in a crowded Democratic primary. Graber lost and proceeded to endorse Wexler over Weinstein, causing a major rift between all of the formerly friendly families involved.
The Adelsons remained close with the Weinstein family, and these friendships were reinforced in the next generation. Charlie was a groomsman in Peter’s son Michael’s wedding — and then Michael acted as Charlie’s lawyer after Markel’s murder, playing a role in advising the Adelsons and communicating messages from the family to Magbanua through Garcia’s attorney Jim Lewis.
These messages helped give Katie confidence that the family wouldn’t be talking with law enforcement and that she, herself, would be safe to stay quiet. Which she did… until her own conviction and life sentence in 2022.
These aren’t small details in the case, and Graber’s exclusion of them is in itself curious, at best.
So the tl;dr here is simple: Graber isn’t a “40 year friend” and the Adelsons are clearly cooking up an alternative story, fed through a useful idiot hungry for relevance, to field test a defense for Donna that will fail as summarily as Charlie’s did.
Florida Politics provides ongoing coverage of the Markel murder case, which is drawing international media attention to Florida’s capital city. Our reporting draws from sources including contributor Cyphers of Sachs Media, who, with attorney Solomon, advocates with the grassroots group “Justice for Dan” to draw attention to the case and provide analysis relevant to Florida’s political, advocacy and legal communities.