by Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN News
LOS ANGELES — It doesn’t look like Filipina American murder suspect Katherine “Katie” Magbanua can spend christmas with her family. A judge denied her request for bail – while awaiting her first trial date on February 27.
Magbanua is accused of serving as a conduit between two alleged hitmen for the killing of Florida professor Dan Markel on July 2014 — a plot that authorities say was sparked by a bitter divorce and family conflict.
She’s been charged with first degree murder, but maintains her innocence.
“The state has made it absolutely clear what their intention is, and why they are fighting so hard to keep her in custody,” said Tara Kawass, Magbanua’s lawyer. “Because they are trying to break her. But Katie has maintained her innocence from day 1. So, what this state wants her to do is basically lie to them.”
“They’re not trying to get her to cooperate, they’re trying to get her to lie,” said her other lawyer, Chris Decoste. “She’s cooperating with the law right now. She’s not committing perjury, but they’re trying to force her. That’s not constitutional. That is not right.”
Markel was shot to death in his garage more than two years ago. The alleged hitmen — Sigredo Garcia and Luis Rivera— were arrested this year. Garcia has two children with the 31-year old Magbanua.
According to reports, Rivera implicated Magbanua — and got a reduced sentence in return.
Magbanua’s lawyers argue that Rivera is a convicted felon who cannot keep his story straight.
“Not a single thing that luis rivera has said or done has not been impeached by other pieces of evidence or other witnesses,” said Decoste. “In this case, justice took a backseat to ego and politics a long time ago. With that evidence, we saw there today. Detective Isom himself said, I do not trust Luis Rivera.”
“I acknowledge his [Rivera’s] inconsistencies,” said Georgia Cappleman, chief assistant to the state attorney. “They’re there, but the majority of what he has to say fits with all the other evidence in the case, and that’s what’s compelling about his testimony.”
The prosecution points out that the Pinay used to have a romantic relationship with Markel’s ex brother-in-law, Charles Adelson.
Markel and Charles’ sister, Wendi, divorced in 2013. Before plans were finalized – the two fought over Wendi’s plan to move her two children from Tallahassee to South Florida to be closer to her family.
Following Markel’s death, Magbanua was reportedly paid more than $10,000 by the Adelson family.
Despite the allegations, authorities say that there is not enough evidence to charge any member of the Adelson family. They have also denied their involvement in the crime.
During her bail hearing, Magbanua’s brother, Erik, says his sister will not flee. He cited that his Katie moved to Florida from the Philippines when she was 7 years old, and had not even been back there since.
In this case, the judge didn’t agree.
Magbanua is not expected to cut a deal with prosecutors between now and her trial in February. Her lawyers insist that she will prove her innocence.