Luis Rivera will spend an additional seven years in prison in exchange for providing key information in the killing of Florida State law professor Dan Markel. It was the break prosecutors say they needed in the high-profile murder case that seemed stalled weeks before trial.
Rivera, a known gang leader, pointed investigators to a long-sought third suspect, Katherine Magbanua. He also told prosecutors he supplied the gun, drove the car to the scene of the crime and that his co-defendant Sigfredo Garcia was the shooter in the murder-for-hire plot that spanned from Miami to Tallahassee.
For the 33-year-old’s cooperation, Rivera was sentenced to 19 years in prison. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder Tuesday afternoon. As part of the deal, Rivera will serve an additional seven years on top of his 12-year federal sentence on unrelated charges.
His attorney, Chuck Collins, was not available for comment following the plea hearing.
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Rivera was facing one count of first-degree murder and the death penalty before Tuesday’s plea hearing. His trial was two weeks away. Rivera was arrested in May at a federal facility where he was serving time.
Chief Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman said getting Rivera’s help is a step forward in bringing to justice others she believes are involved in the plot.
“It’s a necessary evil,” Cappleman said. “Otherwise, you’re looking at the possibility of other culpable parties not facing any ramifications for their role in the crime.”
Investigators say Markel’s former in-laws orchestrated the 41-year-old’s killing.
Tallahassee Police Department and the State Attorney’s Office point to Markel’s acrimonious divorce with his ex-wife Wendi Adelson and her family’s desire to move their young children to South Florida as potential motives for the murder.
Her brother Charlie Adelson and mother Donna Adelson have been implicated in the plot, according to court records; however, prosecutors have not approved arrest affidavits drafted by TPD.
While Rivera’s testimony helped nab Magbanua Saturday in Broward County and will help make the case against her during a grand jury hearing, Cappleman stopped short of saying it was the tipping point in charging the Adelsons.