Alex Murdaugh sentenced to 27 years in state prison for financial crimes

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(BEAUFORT, S.C.) — Disgraced South Carolina attorney and convicted double murderer Alex Murdaugh was sentenced Tuesday to 27 years in state prison on financial crimes.

Murdaugh, 55, pleaded guilty to 22 counts earlier this month for charges including fraud and money laundering after being accused of scheming to steal millions of dollars from his law firm and clients.

State prosecutor Creighton Waters called the plea deal a “unique and unprecedented sentence” on white collar crimes “the likes of which no one can find another example, state or federal, throughout the country.”

Under the plea agreement, Murdaugh will be guaranteed to serve at least 85% — more than 22 years — of the sentence. Waters called it a “practical life sentence.”

Judge Clifton Newman accepted Murdaugh’s guilty plea and the plea agreement during Tuesday’s hearing.

Murdaugh, who is serving two life sentences without parole for the murders of his wife and son, was initially charged with more than 100 state counts related to financial crimes involving 18 victims.

Waters said Tuesday that Murdaugh stole more than $12 million over a decade, including from vulnerable clients who trusted him, while working as a personal injury attorney at his Hampton County law firm.

The victims included the family of his former housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who died after a fall at Murdaugh’s home in February 2018. Prosecutors said Murdaugh misappropriated $3.8 million in settlement funds in her death for his own personal gain.

“The Satterfield family is aware that not a single dime has been recovered,” Waters said.

Several of Satterfield’s family members addressed the court on Tuesday prior to Murdaugh’s sentencing.

Her son, Tony Satterfield, addressed Murdaugh, saying, “You lied, you cheated, you stole, you betrayed me and my family and everybody else, and you did that at the cost of my mom’s death.”

“How you were able to profit from her death is especially hard for us to understand and has caused unimaginable hurt to our family,” Satterfield’s sister, Ginger Hadwin, told the court.

Another victim, Jordan Jinks, broke down as he addressed the court.

“What kind of animal are you?” Jinks, a friend of the defendant who prosecutors said lost $150,000, asked Murdaugh.

Jinks told the judge he supported a 27-year sentence.

Murdaugh appeared in court in handcuffs wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. He was allowed to have his hands freed while addressing the court for nearly an hour.

In tears, he apologized to the victims and said he is “so bothered by the things that I did.”

Speaking directly to the victims who addressed the court, Murdaugh said their “pain and hurt is palpable.”

“I hope that a time will come when you can look back and know that despite the things that I did, that I care about each one of you,” Murdaugh said. “I’m still today haunted by that fact that I deceived each of you terribly.”

He said the sentence in the plea agreement was “certainly harsher than I had hoped for,” but that he pleaded guilty so the victims can “put this behind you.”

He also apologized to his family for “destroying” the family’s reputation “with these terrible things that I have done,” and said he should have gotten help sooner for his opioid addiction “before things got so out of control.”

Murdaugh’s attorneys had asked the judge to accept the negotiated plea agreement.

A jury found Murdaugh guilty earlier this year of fatally shooting his wife and son at the family’s rural hunting estate in June 2021.

He reiterated his innocence in their murders in court on Tuesday, saying, “I would never hurt Maggie, and I would never hurt Paul.”

Murdaugh is seeking to overturn the double murder conviction. His attorneys filed a motion for a new trial in that case in early September, alleging a Colleton County court clerk tampered with the jury. The clerk, Rebecca Hill, denied the allegations in an affidavit filed this month.

A judge will decide whether to grant Murdaugh a hearing in which Hill and the jurors will be questioned under oath.

Murdaugh separately pleaded guilty in September to nearly two dozen federal charges for similar financial crimes. He has yet to be sentenced in the federal case.

He also faces additional state charges including insurance fraud and filing a false police report after he told police he asked a friend to kill him in September 2021 so his other son could collect $10 million in life insurance.

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