Convicted killer and disgraced legal dynasty heir Alex Murdaugh has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors on a string of financial fraud charges – admitting that he stole millions of dollars from law firm clients for his own personal benefit.
In the agreement, signed and filed in South Carolina US District Court on Monday, the double murderer confirmed he will plead guilty to 22 federal charges including wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.
While Murdaugh admitted to stealing millions from clients during bombshell courtroom testimony at his murder trial, this marks the first time that he has ever pleaded guilty to committing a crime.
Now, he faces up to 30 years in federal prison on some of the charges.
Under the agreement, federal prosecutors have agreed that the sentence would be served concurrently with any state conviction on the same charges.
The plea deal must be approved by a federal judge before it can go into effect.
If approved, it means that Murdaugh will likely remain behind bars for a long time – even if he wins his fight to be granted a new trial on murder charges.
In total, Murdaugh is facing more than 100 state and federal charges over his vast multi-million-dollar fraud scheme which went on for more than a decade.
According to prosecutors, Murdaugh worked with co-conspirators and friends ex-attorney Cory Fleming and ex-Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte to swindle clients out of millions of dollars.
Among the victims was the family of Murdaugh’s dead housekeeper Gloria Satterfield – who died in a mystery trip and fall at the family estate in 2018.
Murdaugh allegedly stole more than $4m in a wrongful death suit payout from the family.
Fleming and Laffitte have already been convicted in federal court for their parts in the convicted killer’s white collar fraud scheme, with the former sentenced to four years and the latter to seven years.
While Murdaugh has reached a deal on the federal charges, he is heading to trial on the state charges in November.
The convicted killer appeared in court last week for a hearing on the state charges – in what marked the first time that he was seen in court since the sentencing at his murder trial.
Fleming was also in court that day where he was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to the charges. Meanwhile, Laffitte is also awaiting trial on the state charges.
The latest development in the federal financial cases comes as yet another dramatic twist emerged in the murder case with a random Georgia man thrust into the centre of the convicted killer’s bid for a new murder trial thanks to his now-deleted Facebook rant about his wife’s aunt.
Earlier this month, Murdaugh filed a motion requesting a new trial on the basis that Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill allegedly pressured jurors on the case to return a guilty verdict against him.
Central to the bombshell motion was the circumstances surrounding juror number 785 – who became infamous as the “egg juror” when she prompted some light-hearted relief by asking to pick up her “dozen eggs” from the jury room as she was dismissed from the case hours before deliberations began.
Murdaugh’s attorneys claim the juror was dismissed from the case after Ms Hill told Judge Clifton Newman about the posts from Timothy Stone, claiming that they were made by juror’s ex-husband as evidence that she was speaking about the case outside of the courtroom.
Now, in a new court document filed by Murdaugh’s attorneys on Monday, Murdaugh’s attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin state that this was a case of mistaken identity.
They say that the Timothy Stone behind the posts is simply someone with a similar name to the juror’s ex-husband and that the post “had nothing to do with anyone associated with this case”.
The Mr Stone behind the Facebook posts has given a sworn affidavit to Murdaugh’s legal team.
In it, he said that on 15 February he took to his Facebook page to fume that the family member had been “sticking her nose in my business”, according to court documents.
Mr Stone said he made the post in response to a private argument between the pair and then later felt “terrible” about it and deleted it the next day.
He then posted an apology on his account the next day, saying that he was driven by “Satan”.
“Mr. Stone is a resident of Georgia who has a name similar to the name of Juror #785’s ex-husband. Mr. Stone was the author of the “apology” Facebook post, previously submitted as Exhibit E to Exhibit 1, which Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca Hill represented was evidence Juror #785 had discussed the evidence presented at trial with her ex-husband before deliberations began,” the document states.
“In his affidavit, Mr. Stone avers that he has never been married to Juror #785 and that he has never posted anything to the Facebook group “Walterboro Word of Mouth”. He did post what Ms. Hill identified as the “apology” post by Juror #785’s ex-husband but it was posted to his personal Facebook page and not the “Walterboro Word of Mouth” group.”
According to the motion filed earlier this month, Ms Hill had gone to Judge Newman on 27 February – the day after Murdaugh testified at his trial – claiming that she had seen a post in local Facebook group “Walterboro Word of Mouth” from juror 785’s former husband Tim Stone.
The post purportedly claimed that the juror was drinking with her ex-husband and, when she became drunk, she expressed her views on whether Murdaugh was innocent or guilty.
A follow-up post from an account called Timothy Stone apologised for the post saying that he was driven by “Satan”.
When Ms Hill confronted the juror about the posts, the juror said she hadn’t seen her ex-husband in 10 years, the motion states. Ms Hill allegedly told the juror that SLED and Colleton County Sheriff’s Office personnel had gone to Mr Stone’s house and that he had confirmed he made the post.
She then allegedly asked juror 785 whether she was inclined to vote guilty or not guilty – to which she said she had not made up her mind.
Murdaugh’s attorneys claim that the original post was “fictitous” and that a download of Mr Stone’s Facebook shows he did not make either post.
After the prosecution’s closing argument on the morning of 1 March, juror 785 said that the court clerk asked her again about what her verdict would be. When the juror said she thought prosecutor Creighton Waters’ closing statement was good but that she had questions because the murder weapons have never been found, Ms Hill allegedly told her “that everything Mr Murdaugh has said has been lies and that I should forget about the guns, they will never be seen again”.
The juror said that around 10 minutes later, she was dismissed from the jury – just hours before jury deliberations began.
During her dismissal, she was accused of having spoken to at least three people about the case.
Outside of the Facebook post and her ex-husband, the court was contacted by a co-worker of the juror’s tenant who said that the tenant said her landlord was a juror and had expressed an opinion when delivering a fridge to the property.
The motion from Murdaugh’s attorneys included affidavits from juror 785 and her former husband Tim Stone, who denied ever making the posts.
Disgraced legal scion Murdaugh made several other damning accusations against Ms Hill as he accused her of tampering with the jury at his high-profile double murder trial – because she was driven by fame and a desire to secure a book deal.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office responded to the allegations on Friday, saying that investigators probing the accusations had already found “significant factual disputes” with the claims.
The prosecutors did not outline what the “factual disputes” may be but pointed to the number of media interviews made by Mr Griffin and Mr Harpootlian about the motion.