Murdaugh enters plea in court appearance on federal charges

Disbarred Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh is set to make an initial appearance in Charleston on 22 federal charges.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 12:00 PM EDT|Updated: May. 31, 2023 at 2:43 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. - Disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh entered a plea Wednesday afternoon during an initial appearance in Charleston on 22 federal charges.

Murdaugh entered a plea of not guilty on the charges, which include one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, one count of bank fraud, a total of five counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 14 counts of money laundering.

Murdaugh was indicted by a federal grand jury last week on those charges.

The indictment alleges that Murdaugh, who was a personal injury attorney at a law firm in Hampton engaged in three different schemes to obtain money and property from his personal injury clients, a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office states.

Attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, who represent Murdaugh, released a joint statement Wednesday morning shortly after news of the new indictment was released:

Alex has been cooperating with the United States Attorneys’ Office and federal agencies in their investigation of a broad range of activities. We anticipate that the charges brought today will be quickly resolved without a trial.

He is currently serving prison time – reportedly at McCormick Correctional Facility – for the June 2021 shooting deaths of his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh and their son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh.

Prosecutors said he decided to kill them because his millions of dollars of theft was about to be discovered, and he was hoping their deaths would buy him sympathy and time to figure out a cover-up.

Murdaugh, who turned 55 in a state prison cell in protective custody Saturday, also faces around 100 other state charges, including stealing from clients and his family’s law firm, insurance fraud and tax evasion.

Prosecutors, Murdaugh’s attorneys and state Judge Clifton Newman, who presided over the murder trial, are trying to find court time to try at least some of those charges before Newman has to retire because of his age at the end of 2023.

Murdaugh’s longtime friend Cory Fleming — an old college roommate and godfather to one of his sons — pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his part in helping Murdaugh steal more than $4 million in wrongful-death settlements with insurers meant for the family of his longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.

The other allegations prosecutors detail in Murdaugh’s federal indictments already have been revealed in state legal papers.

It said Murdaugh and a banker friend, Russell Laffitte, worked together to take settlement money out of client’s accounts, prosecutors said. Laffitte was convicted in November of six wire and bank fraud charges.

Other federal indictments give detailed allegations of how Murdaugh created a bank account that had a similar name to a legitimate company that handled settlements to steal money from clients.