Suspect pleads guilty in Dan Markel murder case

Suspect pleads guilty in Dan Markel murder caseLuis Rivera has entered a plea deal in the murder of FSU law professor Dan Markel.

He was sentenced to 19 years in prison, which will run concurrently with another sentence he is already serving in federal prison.

The deal will spare Rivera the possibility of a life sentence, but requires Rivera to testify against co-defendants Sigfredo Garcia and Katherine Magbanua.

We talked with lead prosecutor Georgia Cappleman about the impact of this plea agreement.

Cappleman told us, “I can’t say I’m happy about the plea agreement but I think it’s a necessary step to move forward in getting the most justice we can out of this case … Mr. Rivera has agreed to cooperate and testify truthfully in all proceedings that may come in the future.”

“What kind of impact would that have on the other co-defendants in this case?” we asked.

“I hope it will have a negative impact on the other defendants. Hopefully his testimony will be compelling to a jury if we get that far,” Cappleman told us.

Cappleman says Rivera already gave a statement to investigators that implicated Katherine Magbanua in the murder plot. Cappleman says her arrest would not have happened without it.

“How critical is Rivera’s testimony? Could you have moved forward with charges against Ms. Magbanua without him?” we asked.

“I could not have moved forward without something else other than what I had prior to having Mr. Rivera’s cooperation secured,” Cappleman told us.

“But now you need Ms. Magbanua’s cooperation?” we asked.

“Well, we’ll see. We’ll see,” Cappleman said.

Cappleman refused to comment on whether Rivera implicated anyone else in the murder scheme or whether any other arrests are imminent.

Cappleman says Rivera provided the gun and drove the Prius seen leaving the scene of the crime. She told the judge Sigfredo Garcia was the trigger man in Markel’s murder.

We did try to talk with Luis Rivera’s attorney after Tuesday’s hearing, but have not yet been able to speak with him.

Neighbor and close friend of Dan Markel, Reggie Garcia, shared his feelings about Rivera’s plea deal and said, “Honestly, my first reaction was that seven years is awful low for the guy who rented the car, drove the car and provided the gun. But, I certainly trust our prosecutors that are clearly needing his help to convict more culpable co-defendants”

Reggie continued to say, “Whenever I pass by his home I think of a 41-year-old man, deep Jewish faith, struck down in cold blood in the prime of his life. His two sons will grow up without a father, so some measure of justice was done today, hopefully more is coming.”

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