Convicted killer and disgraced legal dynasty heir Alex Murdaugh appeared in federal court today to plead guilty to a string of financial fraud charges – admitting that he stole millions of dollars from law firm clients for his own personal benefit.
The double murderer stood before U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel at the J. Waties Waring Judicial Center in Charleston where he waived his right to a jury trial and confirmed to the court his wish to change his plea to guilty.
Murdaugh had confirmed earlier this week that he’d plead guilty to 22 federal charges, which include wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.
“I’m pleading guilty of my own free will and because I am guilty, and for several other reasons,” Mudaugh said in court on Thursday.
When Judge Gergel asked for the other reasons, Murdaugh said it’s so his surviving son, Buster, can see him take responsibility, and so that he can attempt to make things right with his victims.
Murdaugh’s appearance in court on Thursday morning marked the first time he has ever pleaded guilty to a crime. But this is the second time he has appeared publicly since he was sentenced back in March for the brutal 7 June 2021 murders of his wife Maggie and son Paul. Last week, he appeared in court in Beaufort for a hearing on the state charges where a trial date was set for 27 November.
In federal court this week, Judge Gergel started the hearing by asking Murdaugh procedural questions relating to consent and his competency. Murdaugh, who has been behind bars for approximately two years, says he has been sober for more than 700 days.
Lead federal prosecutor Emily Limehouse read aloud in court the plea agreement, which Judge Gergel noted is not a waiver of Murdaugh’s right to appeal.
Per the plea agreement, Murdaugh must be completely truthful and provide any relevant evidence or records. If he does not, the agreement can be rescinded and further charges can be brought.
Murdaugh must also submit to a polygraph test related to his frauds and assets at the government’s request as well as helping to trace and retrieve all assets, money, and accounts — there was much speculation at the close of the murder trial as to whether money had been hidden away.
While Murdaugh admitted to stealing millions from clients during bombshell courtroom testimony at his murder trial, this marks the first time that he has ever pleaded guilty to committing a crime.
Now, he faces up to 30 years in federal prison on some of the charges.
Under the agreement, federal prosecutors have agreed that the sentence would be served concurrently with any state conviction on the same charges.
In total, Murdaugh is facing more than 100 state and federal charges over his vast multi-million-dollar fraud scheme which went on for more than a decade.
According to prosecutors, Murdaugh worked with co-conspirators and friends ex-attorney Cory Fleming and ex-Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte to swindle clients out of millions of dollars.
Among the victims was the family of Murdaugh’s dead housekeeper Gloria Satterfield – who died in a mystery trip and fall at the family estate in 2018.
Murdaugh allegedly stole more than $4m in a wrongful death suit payout from the family.
Fleming and Laffitte have already been convicted in federal court for their roles in the convicted killer’s white-collar fraud scheme, with the former sentenced to four years and the latter to seven years.
While Murdaugh has reached a deal on the federal charges, he is heading to trial on the state charges in November.