Financial crimes trial date set for Alex Murdaugh, accomplice sentenced to 20 years in state prison

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Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 8:48 AM EDT
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BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - There was a flurry of activity at Beaufort County courthouse on Thursday, as former Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh, along with two of his accomplices in schemes to steal money from clients, came before Judge Clifton Newman.

Newman told Murdaugh, who entered the courtroom smiling and wearing a bright orange jumpsuit, that he will stand trial on November 27 for charges that he stole millions from the family of his former housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield.

$4.3 million in insurance settlement money was meant to go to the family after Gloria died in a slip-and-fall accident at the Murdaugh property in 2018, but they never saw any of that money.

Thursday was the first time Murdaugh appeared in state court since his double murder conviction.

The once-powerful attorney faces over 100 state charges related to financial crimes.

Newman’s decision came despite objections from Murdaugh’s defense.

“What is the hurry?” Dick Harpootlian, Murdaugh’s defense attorney, asked Newman incredulously. “He’s pleading in federal court next Thursday to every allegation the state has made.”

His defense team argued that it would be nearly impossible to find an impartial jury for the financial crimes cases given the high-profile nature of the six-week murder trial.

“Where are you going to get a jury? Mars?” Harpootlian said.

Newman said he would not assume prejudice among potential jurors, and said the cases could be tried in any of the counties where the alleged conduct took place.

Prosecutor Creighton Waters said these cases are an “assault on the state judiciary.”

Ex-lawyer and Murdaugh friend Cory Fleming also came before Newman Thursday.

Fleming pleaded guilty on state charges that he helped Murdaugh steal money from clients, including the Satterfield family.

Ginger Hadwin, Satterfield’s sister, addressed the court prior to sentencing.

She said she forgives Fleming, but it does not take away the hurt he caused her family.

“We feel like that Gloria did not die in vain because her case actually brought out a lot of other corruption and dishonest deeds that were done to other people,” she said.

Newman sentenced Fleming to 20 years in state prison.

“I cannot imagine a more devastating, this is unprecedented, this is unimaginable,” the judge said. “This is I think the greatest crime for a lawyer in the history of the state of South Carolina.”

Newman also deferred setting a trial date for Murdaugh co-conspirator Russell Laffitte, who was convicted on federal charges for helping Murdaugh steal.

He is appealing that federal conviction.

Attorney General Alan Wilson released a statement on Fleming’s sentencing, which reads: “In South Carolina, no one is above the law. We’re pleased with Cory Fleming’s sentencing and hope his victims feel a little relief today. Our office has worked tirelessly on this case, just like the rest of the Murdaugh-related cases, and we are committed to seeing each and everyone through to the end.”

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