Alex Murdaugh’s attorney admits disgraced lawyer knows he’s going to jail
Criminal defense attorney Brian Claypool reacts to the latest development in the Murdaugh family murder mystery saga
Alex Murdaugh is expected to appear in a South Carolina courtroom Tuesday morning for a bond hearing on recent charges stemming for insurance settlements obtained following the 2018 death of his housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield. His lawyers are expected to ask a judge to grant bond for their client, who has spent five nights in jail following his second arrest in about a month.
The disgraced scion, whose family had maintained legal and prosecutorial influence in the state’s Lowcountry region for over a century, is scheduled to appear before Judge Clifton Newman, who is considered an at-large judge in the South Carolina Circuit Court, at a 10 a.m. hearing at the Richland County Courthouse in Columbia, S.C., Fox News Digital has learned.
“Judge Newman is one of the most well respected judges on the bench in South Carolina, so he’s not somebody who will cower to any of their influence,” former federal prosecutor, Trey Harrell, told Fox News Digital, detailing the “safeguards” in place assuring the Murdaugh name does not wrongfully sway the legal system. “He is highly, highly respected. There’s a reason the Chief Justice picked him to handle this case. He handles a lot of high profile cases in South Carolina. He was picked because he doesn’t care about media pressure … he is the right guy for the job, beyond reproach.”
Harrell noted that the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office has taken prosecution of the case against Murdaugh, the charges are out of Beaufort County and the bond hearing itself will be held in Richland County. South Carolina Chief Justice Donald W. Beatty tapped Newman in late September to handle all pretrial matters related to investigations into Murdaugh. Among other high profile cases, Newman presided over the “Fake Uber” driver case in Columbia, sentencing Nathaniel Rowland to life in prison in the 2019 murder of University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson.
“This takes it out of the local solicitors’ hands and givens more sunlight on the scenario of what’s going on,” Harrell said Monday. “In essence, the top prosecutor’s office is overseeing the prosecution of these charges because they stem from various counties and various circuits in the state of South Carolina, so they’re trying to keep everything together under one house to pull resources and make sure evidence doesn’t go missing in rural counties.”
Newly charged with two counts of obtaining property by false pretenses, Murdaugh was taken into custody in Orlando, Florida Thursday upon his release from a drug rehabilitation facility. He was extradited back to South Carolina and was booked into the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center Saturday.
His second court appearance comes just over his first on Sept. 16, when Hampton County Magistrate Judge Tonja Alexander set Murdaugh’s bond at $20,000, and he was released on his own recognizance, allowed to return to an out-of-state rehabilitation facility without GPS monitoring.
“I don’t think he’ll get a PR bond [again] because he’s already got pending charges,” Harrell said Monday. “I do think he’s be granted a bond … it’ll probably be a higher bond and he’ll have to post it.”
The former prosecutor expected that this time around one of the conditions of Murdaugh’s bond will likely be an ankle monitor, as it makes sense for the defendant to participate in his own defense and not clog up the jail system while the court system can still keep tabs on his whereabouts.
“I’m sure he’ll be given a bond because these charges don’t arise to the level where he would need to be locked up. If something would come out and he was charged with a murder or in connection to a murder then that’s a different ball of wax,” Harrell continued. “But where we are right now, based on these charges, it could be argued that he’s not a danger to the community nor is he a risk of flight. So constitutionally, he has a right to post bond.”
SLED first opened an investigation into Satterfield’s death and the handling of her estate on Sept. 15. Hampton County Coroner Angie Topper had asked Keel to open an investigation because Satterfield’s death certificate ruled the manner of death as “natural,” which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip-and-fall accident. The death was also not reported to the coroner at that time and an autopsy was never performed.
Murdaugh’s attorney, Dick Harpootlian, said last week that Murdaugh plans to do what he can to right his financial wrongs, and has accepted that he will probably spend time in prison. Each charge of obtaining property by false pretenses carries a sentence of up to 10 years. The three felony charges from the botched attempt to arrange his own death could bring up to 20 years in prison if he’s convicted.
Ronnie Richter, representing Satterfield’s estate alongside attorney Eric Bland, previously told Fox News Digital that the housekeeper’s sons were “scared” and “shell-shocked” after Murdaugh’s release on bond, as it took courage for the two to speak up against the powerful legal family.
Murdaugh had been charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filing a false police report in connection to an alleged Sept. 4 roadside shooting in which he plotted his own death so that his surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy. The alleged hitman, Curtis “Fast Eddie” Smith, alongside his lawyer, Jonny McCoy, made several national news appearances last week arguing he had no prior knowledge of any insurance plot and tried to wrestle a gun away from Murdaugh when he tried to shoot himself.
Jim Griffin, representing Murdaugh alongside Democratic powerhouse attorney, Dick Harpootlian, previously told FOX Carolina that Murdaugh completed “medical detox” at a facility in Atlanta and had begun his second phase of recovery from a 20-years-long addiction to opioids.
According to two warrants released by SLED Saturday, Gloria Satterfield, the Murdaugh family’s 57-year-old nanny and housekeeper, “fell and hit her head” at Murdaugh’s home located on Moselle Road in Islandtown on Feb. 2, 2018. She later had a stroke, went into cardiac arrest and died on Feb. 26, 2018. Murdaugh “coordinated” with Satterfield’s family “to sue himself in order to seek an insurance settlement with the stated intent to give the proceeds to the Satterfield family to pay for funeral expenses and monetary compensation for Satterfield’s children,” the affidavits say.
Murdaugh recommended the Satterfield family hire Corey Fleming, of Moss, Kuhn and Fleming law firm in Beaufort, S.C., to represent them. Fleming brokered an initial insurance settlement in the amount of $505,000. The Satterfield family were never notified of the settlement, the warrants say.
On Jan. 7, 2019, Fleming wrote a check from an account belonging to his law firm in the amount of $403,500 to “Forge.” Murdaugh “created and owned a bank account titled ‘Forge’ and directed Fleming to write the check to it to deprive the Satterfield family of insurance settlements owed to them by converting the $403,500 to Mr. Murdaugh’s own use,” an affidavit says.
Forge Consulting, LLC, is a legitimate company that handles insurance settlements, but is not affiliated with the Satterfield settlement or the account owned by Murdaugh, the affidavits say. Murdaugh titled the account “Forge” as a “misrepresentation in order to facilitate and conceal misappropriation of funds in question.”
Fleming brokered additional insurance settlements in the amount of approximately $4,305,000. A settlement agreement stipulated that $2,765,000 was designated for the Satterfield family. But the Satterfield family again were never notified of the settlements or received any of the proceeds from them, the affidavit says. The settlement agreement was not properly filed in court record.
On May 13, 2019, Fleming again wrote a check in the amount of $2,961,911.95 to “Forge.”
Fleming has promised to return any money he received to the sons and pay them an unspecified amount from a malpractice insurance policy. Both Alex Murdaugh and Fleming, who was also Murdaugh’s former college roommate and godfather to his son, Paul Murdaugh, had their law licenses suspended by the state.
Murdaugh is reportedly considered a person of interest in the June 7 killings of his wife, Maggie, and 22-year-old son, Paul, after the two were found shot dead on the family’s hunting estate in Colleton County. No arrests have been made in connection to the unsolved double murders, and Murdaugh has insisted he is not involved with their killings.
In addition to all of the other cases, state police are looking into whether Murdaugh has connections to a 2015 hit-and-run death and whether he or other family members tried to obstruct the investigation into a boat crash involving Paul Murdaugh that killed 19-year-old woman Mallory Beach in 2019. The Murdaugh family has dominated the legal community in Hampton County for nearly the past century. Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were elected prosecutors and the family founded and built a prestigious law firm known for suing railroads.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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