CHARLESTON, SC (AP) – convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh did something Thursday that he had not done in two years of his life of privilege and power — plead guilty to a crime.
Murdaugh admitted in federal court 22 cases of financial fraud and money laundering.
Murdaugh, 55, is serving a life sentence without parole in a South Carolina prison for shooting his wife Maggie and young son Paul. He has denied any role in the killings since the deaths in June 2021 and insists he is innocent two days of testimony Earlier this year he was convicted on two counts of murder.
“Alex will tell you two things. Firstly, he stole money. Second, he did not kill Maggie and Paul,” defense attorney Dick Harpootlian said after the hearing.
Lawyer fired in federal guilty plea could face years, if not decades, in prison, even if his murder conviction and sentence are overturned in state court on appeal,
Murdaugh told the judge he wanted to be held accountable for stealing from his clients and to do the right thing by his surviving son.
“I want to take responsibility. I want my son to see me taking responsibility. It is my hope that by taking responsibility the people I have hurt can heal,” Murdaugh said, standing in his orange South Carolina prison jumpsuit.
He will be sentenced at a later date. Federal prosecutor Emily Limehouse suggested at a news conference after the hearing that prosecutors would seek a longer term.
“Our goal in holding him accountable for his financial crimes in federal court is to ensure that he is never a free man again,” Limehouse said.
Limehouse said investigators believe Murdaugh began stealing from his family law firm as early as 2005 by inflating the fees he shared among everyone into his own expenses.
The deal to plead guilty in federal court is straightforward. Prosecutors will ask about federal sentencing Murdaugh He is tried at the same time as he serves any prison sentence from a state court. They won’t give him the credit that defendants typically get for pleading guilty.
In turn, authorities are placed on a requirement in almost every plea deal, which is especially important in this case: “The defendant fully cooperates with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies by providing full, complete, and truthful information about Agrees to be truthful and frank.” All criminal activities of which he has knowledge,” reads the standard language included in Murdoff’s deal.
he could be the one Comprehensive range Of wrongdoing. Federal charges against disgraced lawyer whose family were both prosecutors and founders of a heavy-handed law firm that no longer uses the shortened Murdaugh name hampton countyDeal with stealing money from at least five customers and creating fake bank accounts.
Murdaugh admitted Thursday that he stole money and property from two sisters who were children after they lost their mother and brother in an accident to care for a man paralyzed from the neck down in an accident. long time maid Who died after falling at the family home and from other people.
Murdaugh still faces nearly 100 separate charges in state court. Authorities said he committed insurance fraud by trying to have someone kill him so his surviving son could get $10 million in life insurance, but was shot. Only Murdaugh got hit on the head., Investigators said Murdaugh also failed to pay taxes on the stolen money, took settlement money from the law firm of several clients and their families, and ran a drug and money laundering ring.
he is determined face trial At least some of them on charges in late November. State prosecutors have stressed that they want everyone to face justice. Murdaugh’s lawyers suggested Thursday there were serious questions if there would be a trial, but did not say why.
As Limehouse gave the judge details in federal court about each scheme to steal the money, Murdaugh rocked back and forth.
Judge Richard Gergel asked Murdaugh if he disagreed with any of the prosecution’s descriptions and the former attorney, whose law license has now been revoked, referred to his attorney, Jim Griffin.
When Murdaugh represented a woman who died in a wreck, he didn’t steal from her estate — only her surviving husband’s money, Griffin said.
“It doesn’t make it any better, but it’s just a good point of clarification,” he said.
Murdaugh’s previous job was also mentioned several times during the hearing. As it began, Gergel said he knew Murdaugh was familiar with the standard questions that defendants are asked when they plead guilty and mostly hit the script.
But when Gergel asked if Murdaugh was sober, the former lawyer – who blames decades of painkiller and other drug abuse for his crimes – said he had been “proudly clean” for 744 days.
That would be Sept. 7, 2021, three days after police said he asked a friend to kill him along that deserted Lowcountry two-lane road.
Griffin said Murdaugh’s drug use will likely play a large role in the sentencing report that will be written before his next hearing. Neither side would commit to the specific length of time they expect Murdaugh to remain behind bars until the report is completed.
Murdaugh pleaded guilty to 14 counts of money laundering, five counts of wire fraud, one count of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The sound of his pen echoed in the silent courtroom as he signed the documents.
Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Some carry a maximum sentence of 30 years.
Other requirements of the plea deal include that Murdaugh must submit to a lie detector test when asked and repay the $9 million he is accused of stealing.
That money must be immediately turned over to federal authorities, which could create a conflict since the assets Murdaugh still owns are currently controlled by the state.
Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Pollard is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. report for usa is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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