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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Feb. 27, 2024

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Alex Murdaugh, already convicted of murder, will be sentenced for stealing from 18 clients


For years, South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh looked his anguished clients in the eyes and promised to help them with their medical bills, their suffering or simply to survive. Then he stole most, if not all, of what he won for many of them.

On Tuesday, those folks get to look right back at Murdaugh, in a prison jumpsuit, and tell him whatever they want as the disgraced lawyer, also convicted of murder, is sentenced for a decade worth of thefts from clients and his law firm.

The courtroom drama will mark yet another step in the fall of a powerful and respected attorney whose family name dominated the legal scene in a small Hampton County for generations, and whose alleged crimes have been a perennial favorite of podcasts, books and online discussions.

State prosecutors and Murdaugh’s lawyers negotiated a 27-year prison sentence for the man who is already serving a life term without parole after a jury found him guilty of killing his wife, Maggie, with a rifle, and younger son, Paul, with a shotgun in June 2021.

But Murdaugh adamantly denies killing them. His lawyers are seeking a new trial, citing allegations that the court clerk tampered with the jury. A different judge will decide whether to grant Murdaugh a hearing in which jurors, the clerk and maybe Judge Clifton Newman would be questioned under oath.

The financial crimes are a different story.

“I agree that I wrongly took all of that money, your honor, and did all of those crimes,” Murdaugh told Newman earlier this month as the parameters of the plea deal were worked out.

Murdaugh had “an insatiable need for money,” said prosecutor Creighton Waters of the state Attorney General’s Office.

Newman, who presided over the murder trial and sentencing, said earlier this month that he was inclined to agree to the plea deal for the financial crimes.

The 27-year sentence is an insurance policy for prosecutors in case his murder conviction is overturned on appeal. Under South Carolina law, Murdaugh will have to serve almost 23 years of the sentence, even if he is a model prisoner. He would be 76 before he could be released.

Prosecutors initially charged Murdaugh with 101 financial crimes, including breach of trust, money laundering and tax evasion, involving 18 victims.

Under the plea deal, the number was reduced to 22 crimes against each of his clients.

His victims include Gloria Satterfield, the longtime family maid who died in a fall at the Murdaugh home. Murdaugh put his arm around Satterfield’s son at her funeral and promised he would take care of her family. He got about $4 million from his insurers then later admitted to stealing every penny.

There is the mother of Hakeem Pinckney, a deaf man who became quadriplegic after a 2009 car crash. Murdaugh acknowledged taking most of a $309,000 settlement and than an additional $89,000 payment after Pinckney died in a nursing home.

State trooper Tommy Moore went to Murdaugh after his patrol car was hit by a driver who lost control in the snow, leaving him with a neck injury. Murdaugh admitted he stole $100,000 of the $125,000 settlement.

Even Murdaugh’s brother, who worked in the family law firm, said Murdaugh took a $121,000 check meant for the brother and cashed it, prosecutors said.

Tuesday’s hearing will not mark the end of Murdaugh’s legal problems. He also is awaiting sentencing on federal financial crime charges, and still faces insurance fraud and other local charges after asking a friend to kill him in September 2021 so his surviving son could get $10 million in life insurance.

The shot only grazed Murdaugh’s head.