Friday April 12th, 2024 6:51AM

Alex Murdaugh faces a South Carolina judge for punishment a final time

By The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — For maybe the last time, Alex Murdaugh, in a prison jumpsuit and shackles instead of the suit the lawyer used to wear, will shuffle into a courtroom in South Carolina and wait for a judge to punish him.

Murdaugh is scheduled to be sentenced Monday morning in federal court for stealing from clients and his law firm. 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 recommends a prison sentence between 17 and 22 years for Murdaugh. It's 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 — time he will have to serve if both his murder convictions are overturned on appeal.

The 22 federal counts contained in a plea deal are the final charges outstanding for Murdaugh, who three years ago was an established lawyer negotiating multimillion-dollar settlements in tiny Hampton County, where members of his family served as elected prosecutors and ran the area's premier law firm for nearly a century.

But now his life is summed up by prosecutors in a court filing asking a judge to revoke their plea deal with Murdaugh and give him a harsher sentence because FBI agents think he is not telling the whole truth about what happened to $6 million he stole and whether a so-far unnamed attorney helped his criminal schemes.

Murdaugh “spent most of his career deceiving everyone in his personal and professional circles — unburdened by his own conscience. The scope and pervasiveness of Murdaugh’s deceit is staggering. He ranks as one of the most prolific fraudsters this state has ever seen. When the house of cards began to fall, Murdaugh murdered his wife and son," prosecutors wrote.

Murdaugh stole from clients, including the sons of his longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield. She died in a fall at the family home. Murdaugh promised to take care of Satterfield's family, then worked with a lawyer friend who pleaded guilty on a scheme to steal $4 million in a wrongful death settlement with the family's insurer.

Murdaugh also took money meant to care for a client who became a quadriplegic after a crash and a state trooper injured on the job.

In all, Murdaugh took settlement money from or inflated fees or expenses for nearly two dozen clients. Prosecutors said the FBI found 11 more victims than the state investigation found and that Murdaugh stole nearly $1.3 million from them.

Murdaugh was convicted a year ago of killing his younger son Paul with a shotgun and his wife, Maggie, with a rifle. While he has pleaded guilty to dozens of financial crimes, he adamantly denies he killed them and testified in his own defense. There will be years of appeals in the murder cases.

The case has captivated true crime fans, spawning dozens of podcast episodes and thousands of social media posts. It continued its odd twists in the days before Monday's sentencing hearing.

Lawyers for Murdaugh said an FBI agent who conducted a polygraph test asked Murdaugh if he could keep a secret, then confided he had just examined notorious Dutch killer Joran van der Sloot.

Murdaugh flunked that polygraph test, according to prosecutors who want to revoke the plea agreement, paving the way for a harsher sentence. Each of the 22 counts Murdaugh pleaded guilty to in federal court carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. Some carry a 30-year maximum.

The defense said the alleged odd behavior and unusual questions from a FBI agent caused Murdaugh to fail the test. They asked the court to release all his statements to the FBI.

A judge will take up that issue during Monday's sentencing hearing.

Prosecutors want to keep many of the FBI statements secret, saying they are still investigating the missing money and who might have helped Murdaugh steal. They say making the information public would jeopardize an ongoing grand jury investigation.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News
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