When will Alex Murdaugh be tried for state financial crimes? SC lawyers fight over a date

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A South Carolina judge on Friday set a date for Sept. 11 for opposing lawyers to meet to decide when convicted double murderer Alex Murdaugh should go on trial for a host of alleged financial crimes.

Prosecutor Creighton Waters, of the SC’s Attorney General’s Office, told Judge Clifton Newman on Friday that he prefers to have a trial later this fall — not next year — on at least some of the charges against Murdaugh.

But Murdaugh’s attorney, Dick Harpootlian, said his year is stacked, in part due to legislative duties, since he is a senator from Richland County and has so-called “statutory immunity” from lawsuits through July.

Harpootlian said he also wants to visit his wife Jamie, the US ambassador to Slovenia, and hopes to complete a massive civil case this year against the State Department of Corrections alleging neglect of five murdered young children.

Since Murdaugh, once a prominent Hampton County attorney, was only convicted in March of the murders of his wife Maggie and youngest son Paul, it will likely be difficult to find an impartial jury, especially since the trial was televised and viewed. by millions of people, Harpootlian told the judge.

Alex Murdaugh is being charged with property theft

Murdaugh, 55, is in state penitentiary serving two consecutive life sentences for double murder, and faces about 100 additional charges, mostly financial, in five separate Lowcountry counties. The crimes include money laundering, embezzlement, computer crime and the theft of more than $9 million in stolen money.

Waters told Newman that Beaufort County would be a logical place to hold Murdaugh’s first trial because that county was the site of his biggest alleged robbery.

“We’ll do what we have to do,” Waters said. “I think Beaufort is probably the best place.”

In Beaufort County, Murdaugh and his longtime friend, Beaufort attorney Cory Fleming, plotted to steal $4.3 million from the estate of Gloria Satterfield, Murdaugh’s longtime housekeeper who died in February 2018 after a fall at his home.

In all, Murdaugh faces charges of theft from numerous victims of approximately $9 million between 2011 and 2021.

For two years, in 2018 and 2019, Murdaugh and Fleming arranged for his personal liability insurers to send $4.3 million to Satterfield’s estate, then stole the money, most of which Murdaugh got, according to state indictments.

Fleming pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday to charges of theft from the Satterfield estate.

He is also scheduled to appear in state court in Beaufort County on September 11.

He faces 18 state charges in all connection with the Satterfield thefts, including conspiracy, misrepresentation in an insurance claim, breach of trust, money laundering and computer crime.

Fleming’s attorney, Debbie Barbier, declined to comment.

Will Murdaugh stand trial for financial crimes in 2023?

For Murdaugh, with Harpootlian’s job as a legislator exempted by state law from appearing in court from roughly January to August, there really is “only two, three months” this year to try him, Waters told Newman.

Newman, who presided over Murdaugh’s murder trial, told lawyers he will not be available to handle a trial after January 1, 2024, as he turns 72 this year. Under the state’s mandatory retirement law, Newman must retire at the end of this year.

“My calendar will be out of the picture,” Newman said. “My term of office is December 31.”

Complicating the picture is the recent federal indictment against Murdaugh, which charges him with more than $7 million in various financial crimes dating back to 2005, including the money stolen from the Satterfield estate.

It’s not clear how the U.S. Attorney of South Carolina and the state’s attorney general will reconcile their schemes in what are parallel prosecutions, as charges by each office cover roughly the same types of crimes.

“We have a really good working relationship with the Attorney General’s Office,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Limehouse told reporters Thursday after Fleming pleaded guilty to a federal count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the Satterfield case.

“In deference to our state partners,” Limehouse said federal prosecutors delayed charging both Murdaugh and Fleming with federal financial crimes until after the state prosecuted Murdaugh on the murder charges.

“Our main goals are to hold everyone accountable for these crimes and to bring the victims to health,” she said.

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