Alex Murdaugh receives sentence on federal financial crimes


CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC/AP) – Disbarred Lowcountry attorney and convicted killer Alex Murdaugh has learned how much more time he faces in prison for his federal financial crimes.

Murdaugh, who was accused of stealing millions of dollars from his clients during his time as a lawyer, has been sentenced to another 40 years. A judge is also requiring him to pay $8.7 million in restitution to his victims.

The 55-year-old disbarred attorney is already serving a life sentence without parole in a state prison for killing his wife and son.

A report by federal agents recommended a prison sentence between 17 1/2 and just under 22 years.

The 40-year sentence will be insurance on top of insurance. Along with the life sentence, Murdaugh pleaded guilty and was ordered to spend 27 years in prison in state court on financial crime charges. The federal sentence will run at the same time as his state prison term and he likely will have to serve all 40 years if his murder convictions are overturned on appeal.

“We are grateful for that sentence as Emily Limehouse pointed out in the courthouse, the judge is allowed to stack sentences, it’s not particularly common, but we do think it warranted in this case,” District of South Carolina U.S. Attorney, Adair Boroughs, said.

Both the defense and prosecution originally requested a 30-year sentence, but U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel felt differently.

Gergel said he sentenced Murdaugh to a harsher punishment than suggested because Murdaugh stole from “the most needy, vulnerable people” like a client who became a quadriplegic after a crash, a state trooper who was injured on the job, and a trust fund meant for children whose parents were killed in a wreck.

Of Murdaugh’s 25 victims, 11 of them are still not publicly identified, which Gergel says are some of the most vulnerable.

One of those was Pamela Pinckney, the mother of Hakeem Pinckney, who died at the age of 21 after a 2011 car crash and was one of Murdaugh’s clients.

“It’s not about the money. It’s about what we lost, I lost my son, and that will never be replaced,” Pinckney says. “If I could have anything in this world it would be my son over money or any materialistic thing on this earth.”

Gergel explained that his decision sets a clear message to all lawyers who steal from their clients in South Carolina and across America.

“They placed all their problems and all their hopes on Mr. Murdaugh and it is from those people he abused and stole. It is a difficult set of actions to understand,” Gergel said.

Murdaugh entered guilty pleas to 22 federal charges on Sept. 21.

On Monday, he told Gergel he felt a sense of relief crept over him when pleading guilty last fall.

“That there was no more having to hide a secret life. I know that I hurt and left a lot of damage overall in my wake,” Murdaugh said.

Murdaugh spoke in the courtroom to both the judge and victims for a total of 13 minutes saying he is filled with sorrow and guilt for what he did to the people he cares about.

“I want to take responsibility. I want my son to see me take responsibility,” Murdaugh told U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel. “It’s my hope by taking responsibility that people I’ve hurt can begin to heal.”

Addressing his drug addiction, Murdaugh told the judge he doesn’t think he would have committed the crimes if he had not been addicted to opioids.

In response, Federal Prosecutor Emilly Limehouse said $6 million still remains unaccounted for today, and they gave him every opportunity to come clean.

She says Murdaugh remained adamant that all the money went to drugs, but it doesn’t add up.

Gergel said Murdaugh was a skilled groomer and no impaired person could have pulled off a crime of this magnitude.

“Alex Murdaugh deserved every single day of the sentence he deserved today, that he obtained today,” Boroughs said.

“Will he appeal? I mean I will talk with him about that later today,” one of Murdaugh’s attorneys, Jim Griffin, said. “He is ready to move on, and frankly, we are ready to move on.”

In court documents filed last week, federal prosecutors said Murdaugh wasn’t truthful when FBI agents asked him where more than $6 million he stole ended up and whether another attorney helped him steal from clients and his law firm.

The prosecutors want a judge to revoke their end of a plea deal with Murdaugh on theft and other charges and order him to a maximum of well over 100 years in prison when he is sentenced.

Murdaugh, 55, is already serving life without parole in state prison after a jury found him guilty of murder in the shootings of his wife and younger son. He pleaded guilty to stealing money from clients and his law firm in state court and was sentenced to 27 years, which South Carolina prosecutors said is an insurance policy to keep him behind bars in case his murder conviction was ever overturned.

SPECIAL SECTION: The Murdaugh Cases

The federal case was supposed to be even more insurance, with whatever sentence Murdaugh received running at the same time as his state sentences. But that deal is in doubt after the FBI said the disbarred attorney failed a polygraph.

In their response, Murdaugh’s lawyers included court documents from state prosecutors in his murder case who fought against having the defense use polygraph results that said a Murdaugh friend failed his own test when asked if he was involved in killing Murdaugh’s wife and son.

The Murdaugh results were made unreliable by the FBI examiner who just before the exam asked Murdaugh if he could keep a secret, then told him he had just come from Alabama where he tested van der Sloot, who admitted to killing Natalee Holloway in 2005 in Aruba, defense lawyers said.

The examiner also told Murdaugh he believed he didn’t kill his wife and son and asked him a confusing question about hidden assets, the defense said.

Murdaugh’s lawyers said they might have more objections to the polygraph but they only learned about the prosecution’s allegations Tuesday and hadn’t had time to get their expert to review the results. They are asking the sentencing judge on Monday to ignore the results.

A pre-sentencing motion filed by prosecutors after the Murdaugh brief did not answer the defense’s arguments. The matter will likely be taken up at Monday’s sentencing.

The pre-sentencing report recommends a 17.5 to nearly 22-year prison sentence for Murdaugh on the federal charges.

Prosecutors now want Murdaugh to face the stiffest sentence possible since the plea agreement was breached and serve his federal sentence at the end of any state sentences.

Each of the 22 counts Murdaugh pleaded guilty to in federal court carries a maximum of at least 20 years in prison. Some carry a 30-year maximum.

Prosecutors also want to keep secret four statements, including the polygraph, that Murdaugh gave the FBI.

Investigators think Murdaugh is trying to protect an attorney who helped him steal and that his assertion that more than $6 million in the stolen money went to his drug habit is not true. Releasing the statements could damage an ongoing investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Federal prosecutors said Murdaugh did appear to tell the truth about the roles banker Russell Laffitte and attorney and old college friend Cory Fleming played in helping him steal.

Laffitte was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison, while Fleming is serving nearly four years behind bars after pleading guilty.

Murdaugh’s sentencing will take place at 10 a.m. Monday at the U.S. District Courthouse in Charleston.


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