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Alex Murdaugh sentenced to 27 years in state financial crimes case

"You lied, you cheated, you stole," a son of Murdaugh's late housekeeper said at the sentencing hearing. "You betrayed me and my family and everybody else."
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BEAUFORT, S.C. — One by one, former clients and their representatives scolded disgraced South Carolina lawyer and convicted killer Alex Murdaugh at his sentencing hearing Tuesday on nearly two dozen counts of financial crimes, accusing him of exploiting their personal relationships and most vulnerable moments to steal money they were rightfully owed.

"I'm not crying because of what you stole from me — I'm crying for what he did to everybody. These kids. These people dying," said Jordan Jinks, a longtime friend of Murdaugh's who hired him after he was injured in a car crash in 2016 and was due about $150,000 in a settlement. "I didn't want to come up here and bash you, but I got to ask you, what kind of animal are you?"

Another victim, an adult son of the Murdaughs' late housekeeper, who died following a "trip and fall accident" at the Murdaughs' home in 2018, said he felt sorrow for how his mother was treated.

A timeline of Murdaugh’s legal troubles

"You lied, you cheated, you stole," Michael "Tony" Satterfield said. "You betrayed me and my family and everybody else."

But, he added, "I want you to know that I forgive you. I will pray for you every day."

Image: Alex Murdaugh
Alex Murdaugh addresses the court at his sentencing for stealing from 18 clients Tuesday at the Beaufort County Courthouse in Beaufort, S.C. Andrew J. Whitaker / The Post And Courier pool via AP

Murdaugh is accused of cheating the estate of Satterfield's mother, Gloria Satterfield, out of a more than $4 million settlement. He agreed this month to plead guilty to 22 counts of financial crimes, including money laundering, fraud and breach of trust, related to the Satterfield estate and other schemes perpetrated over more than a decade.

Circuit Judge Clifton Newman accepted Murdaugh's plea Tuesday and a 27-year prison sentence agreed upon by state prosecutors and Murdaugh's defense team. As part of a deal, it will run at the same time as Murdaugh's federal sentence for similar financial crimes that he pleaded guilty to in September.

Murdaugh is already serving two consecutive life sentences for the fatal shootings of his wife, Margaret, and their younger son, Paul, in June 2021.

"It is unimaginable to me that you have done some of the things you have done," Newman told Murdaugh. "Whether it is you or someone you become upon using drugs or the process of committing crimes over and over, I don't know. I don't even know who I am speaking to now."

While prosecutors focused on a narrow set of crimes, they allege the case actually spans 101 financial-related offenses, and an alleged loss of $8.8 million to those affected by Murdaugh's deception.

"My heart goes out not only to my family but to all the families you did wrong by," Satterfield's sister, Ginger Harriott Hadwin, said at the sentencing. "I just don't understand, did you not have a soul?"

At Tuesday's hearing in Beaufort County, chief prosecutor Creighton Waters of the state attorney general's office outlined to the court how Murdaugh, 55, exerted his "power, influence and trust" to steal from clients and his family's law firm with two co-conspirators.

Waters said it took "true courage" for victims to come forward and help prosecutors expose Murdaugh, given his lineage as the scion of a powerful legal family in South Carolina's Lowcountry.

"There was a palpable fear because of the power, because of the influence, because of the belief that nothing would be done," Waters said. "I heard over and over again, 'Mr. Waters, I have to live there. You don't know what they are capable of.'"

Murdaugh, who was disbarred in the wake of law enforcement's financial misconduct investigation, often represented poorer and working-class people seeking injury relief, some of whose family members were killed in car wrecks.

Those whom he pleaded guilty to stealing from include a woman who said she was defrauded twice by Murdaugh — once when she hired him in 2010 after her teenage son became paralyzed from the neck down in a car crash, and then again after he died; a man who was injured in a 2011 car crash in which his wife was killed; and a state trooper who was rear-ended in 2018 and suffered a neck injury.

Murdaugh did not appear to have any family members in the courtroom Tuesday. During the victim impact statements, Murdaugh peered straight ahead and blinked repeatedly.

When he was permitted to speak, he told the court he was sorry and turned to the victims.

"I have special recollections with my interactions with each one of you outside of the terrible things that I did," Murdaugh said.

He addressed Jinks, who had said earlier that he now believes Murdaugh was capable of murder: "My wife loved you. And you're absolutely right about everything you said, but you are dead wrong about one thing: I would never hurt Maggie, and I would never hurt Paul."

Waters said Tuesday that the plea deal ensures Murdaugh will "stay in state prison for what is most likely the remainder of his life, and that's aside from the two life sentences." Murdaugh's family law firm has since paid back the "net amounts" from settlements that were owed to victims, Waters added, while noting there still may be other outstanding claims among various victims and parties.

The financial crimes became a central part of the state's case against Murdaugh in his double murder trial. Prosecutors said he killed his wife and son in order to gain sympathy and distract from his crumbling financial situation, which members of his law firm began to investigate. Murdaugh has said he stole money to feed a 20-year opioid addiction, and state prosecutors said he also used stolen money to pay back loans and other debts.

Murdaugh's defense lawyers said Tuesday they believe he remains "clean" from drugs.

Murdaugh, meanwhile, is attempting to win a new trial on the murder charges after his lawyers accused the clerk of court of jury tampering. She has denied the allegations.

Newman, who oversaw that trial as well, agreed to step down in any further proceedings related to the case, as he could potentially be called as a witness and is already planning to retire at the end of this year.

He said Tuesday that he is looking foward to moving on from the high-profile case.

"I'm happy to turn the page," Newman said.

Haylee Barber and Juliette Arcodia reported from Beaufort and Erik Ortiz from New York.