Murdaugh back in court for first time since murder trial

BEAUFORT, S.C. — Former lawyer Alex Murdaugh appeared in a South Carolina courtroom Thursday for the first time since he was convicted six months ago of murdering his spouse and youthful son as he faces the following section of the state’s sprawling case in opposition to him — an internet of alleged monetary crimes involving two co-conspirators.

Prosecutors stated Murdaugh, 55, confronted 101 complete costs and an alleged lack of $8.8 million to these affected by the alleged crimes.

Murdaugh appeared in Beaufort County General Sessions Court. Alleged accomplices Cory Fleming, a former lawyer and school roommate, and Russell Laffitte, an ex-banking CEO, who prosecutors say aided him in schemes to defraud purchasers out of cash from at the least 2005 to 2021, additionally appeared in court on Thursday.

A timeline of Murdaugh’s legal troubles

Murdaugh’s attorneys finally accepted a trial date of Nov. 27 after arguing for a delay. Fleming obtained a 20-year sentence to run concurrently along with his federal sentence of 46 months. The resolution across the former banking CEO’s court case was pushed to a later date.

Murdaugh walked in via a aspect door, handcuffed and in a vivid orange jumpsuit to a courtroom that was nearly full. His hair appeared to have grown back some after it was shaved when he was incarcerated.

Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman, who presided over Murdaugh’s murder trial, additionally presided over this listening to, as the previous legal professional sat and stared immediately forward all through the brief look.

Ultimately, Murdaugh was escorted out the identical means he got here in. He was in the courtroom for fewer than half-hour.

Murdaugh was final in a courtroom in March, when he was sentenced to life in prison with out parole in the deadly shootings of his spouse, Margaret, 52, and son Paul, 22, on the household’s looking lodge property in June 2021.

That trial drew nationwide consideration as prosecutors accused him of murdering his spouse and son to achieve pity and to distract from monetary crimes threatening to topple his repute in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, the place three generations of household patriarchs had wielded energy because the top prosecutor for a long time.

Alex Murdaugh arrives in court in Beaufort, S.C., on Thursday. James Pollard / AP

Newman allowed the jury to hear evidence of Murdaugh’s alleged monetary misdeeds, a pivotal win for the prosecution.

But that truth additionally turned a direct component in Murdaugh’s protection.

Dick Harpootlian, who represents the previous legal professional, emphasised in the courtroom Thursday that Murdaugh’s very public murder case got here to an finish simply six months in the past. It was aired on nationwide tv, podcasted, blogged and mentioned deeply on the web — that was all trigger for a change of venue, he stated.

“To try this case in less than a year than the other case, where are you going to get a jury?” He requested. “Mars?”

Murdaugh’s attorney also noted that they had requested a new murder trial because he alleged the court clerk had tampered with the jury. He accused the prosecution of “one other effort at making a nationwide spectacle,” and argued the financial case could not proceed until the issues of the murder case were handled.

Murdaugh’s defense team accuses Rebecca Hill, the Colleton County clerk of court, of tampering with the jury by “advising them not to believe Murdaugh’s testimony and other evidence presented by the defense, pressuring them to reach a quick guilty verdict, and even misrepresenting critical and material information to the trial judge in her campaign to remove a juror she believed to be favorable to the defense.”

The jury deliberated for less than three hours before it found Murdaugh guilty of two counts of murder and two counts of using a weapon during the commission of a violent crime following six weeks of testimony.

Hill told Court TV that the allegations had been “untrue.”

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, whose office is prosecuting the murder and financial crimes cases against Murdaugh, has asked the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to investigate the allegations of jury tampering.

Murdaugh took the stand in his own defense in the murder trial, and while he denied having killed his wife and son, he admitted to some financial misconduct.

He now must answer more than 100 charges in state and federal courts, from money laundering to tax evasion to bank fraud.

Prosecutors allege that one such plot concerned him conspiring with Fleming to siphon off insurance coverage settlement funds in the death of the Murdaughs’ longtime housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield. Satterfield died in 2018 after what had been described as a “trip and fall accident” on the household house.

Murdaugh is accused of directing Fleming to draft checks totaling almost $3.5 million to a bank account that he used for his own personal enrichment while Satterfield’s estate received none of the money, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors directly referenced Satterfield’s case Thursday during Fleming’s sentencing hearing. The lead attorney, Creighton Waters, pointed at Satterfield’s family members who sat in the front row.

“It was a shakedown,” Waters said. “Plain and simple.”

In August, Fleming was sentenced to almost four years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty, and he was also ordered to pay restitution and a fine. He pleaded guilty to state charges and appeared in court Thursday to face sentencing by Newman.

Fleming’s defense attorney, Deborah Barbier, said her client had already admitted his guilt and was “not making excuses.”

“He has stepped up the plate, he has fully admitted that he was wrong,” she said.

Tony Satterfield, son of Murdaugh’s housekeeper, gave a statement at Thursday’s hearing along with other members of the family. He said he forgave Fleming, but that it was “up to the judge to decide.”

Justin Bamberg, an attorney for other victims of Fleming and Murdaugh’s alleged scheme, had harsher words for Fleming, who looked down and did not look back at the Satterfield family during the proceeding.

“This is a dagger in the heart of the clients who trusted their lawyers,” Bamberg stated.

Bamberg requested the choose to condemn Fleming, who confronted as much as 195 years in jail, “firmly.” Fleming in the end obtained a 20-year sentence, which is able to run concurrently along with his federal sentence. In complete, he’ll serve about 4 years in a federal jail and 16 years in state jail.

Laffitte, the previous CEO of Palmetto State Bank, was sentenced last month to nearly six years in federal jail after he was discovered responsible of stealing nearly $2 million from purchasers’ authorized settlements in reference to Murdaugh. Laffitte has maintained his innocence and stated he would enchantment.

Haylee Barber reported from Beaufort and Erik Ortiz from New York.

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