What's next for Alex Murdaugh? About 100 fraud charges and a coming appeal

ByEric Levenson, CNN, CNNWire
Friday, March 10, 2023
Alex Murdaugh murders trial
Alex Murdaugh murders trial

Alex Murdaugh will spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted of murdering his wife and son, but his days in court are far from over.

Murdaugh, the 54-year-old disbarred attorney, is still charged with 99 counts of embezzlement, computer crime, money laundering, conspiracy and more for what prosecutors say was a wide-ranging scheme to bilk his law firm, clients and the government out of about $9.3 million.

He further faces several charges in a September 2021 shooting, in which he allegedly arranged for a man to kill him so that his surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, could collect a life insurance payout.

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In addition, an appeal on his murder conviction is ahead, particularly around the question of whether the judge was too permissive in allowing evidence of his past financial wrongdoing and lies.

And there is also a reopened investigation into the death of his longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.

For now, though, Murdaugh will be behind bars. He is being held at the Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia, South Carolina, according to inmate records. He will begin intake and evaluation processing, which generally lasts about 45 days, according to the South Carolina Attorney General's office.

Here's what's ahead for the former attorney.

Murdaugh faces over 100 other charges

Even with the murder convictions, prosecutor Creighton Waters told CNN he still plans to aggressively pursue what he called the "white collar" charges against Murdaugh.

In a separate case that has not yet gone to trial, Murdaugh has been indicted on 99 charges in six different counties for allegedly defrauding victims of $8.8 million and the state of about $490,000, according to the state attorney general's office.

According to CNN's tally, the charges are made up of 32 counts of embezzlement, 21 counts of computer crime, 14 counts of money laundering, 11 counts of obtaining signature or property by false pretenses, nine counts of tax evasion, seven counts of conspiracy, three counts of false statement or misrepresentation and two counts of forgery.

The allegations include brazen schemes to defraud his clients and partners at his namesake law firm. As just one example, he is accused of stealing at least $1 million from the family of a client, Hakeem Pinckney, who was severely injured when a tire tread on the car he was riding in came off, causing the car to overturn. Pinckney's family hired Murdaugh to sue the tire company, and Murdaugh claimed the winnings as his own, according to the indictment.

During his testimony in his murder trial, Murdaugh admitted to stealing from clients and the firm.

"I took money that was not mine and I shouldn't have done it," he testified. "I hate the fact that I did it. I'm embarrassed by it. I'm embarrassed for my son. I'm embarrassed for my family."

Murdaugh is additionally charged with conspiracy, false claim for payment and filing a false police report in the alleged botched suicide plot on September 4, 2021.

In the bizarre incident, Murdaugh was shot in the head on the side of a road a day after he was forced to resign from his law firm. He initially told police an unknown man shot him, but he later admitted he conspired with a former client to kill him as part of a fraud scheme so that his only surviving son could collect a life insurance payout, according to the indictment.

Murdaugh has not entered a plea on the charges, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office told CNN last month.

Appeal likely to focus on financial evidence

Murdaugh's defense attorneys said they plan to file a notice of intention to appeal the murder convictions within 10 days.

Murdaugh maintained his innocence throughout the trial and at his sentencing. "I would never hurt my wife, Maggie, and I would never hurt my son Paul," he told the judge at sentencing.

An appeal would likely focus on the question of whether Judge Clifton Newman ruled appropriately in allowing the prosecution to present evidence about Murdaugh's extensive financial wrongdoing.

Prosecutors said investigations into that wrongdoing were the motive for the murders and were relevant to this case. However, the defense argued the fraud accusations were not relevant to the killings and were unfair to Murdaugh.

Newman sided with the prosecution and ruled that the financial evidence was "so intimately connected" with the explanation of the state's theory "that proof of it is essential to complete the story." After that ruling, prosecutors spent more than two weeks going over Murdaugh's extensive financial crimes and lies to those around him.

Prior to deliberations, Newman instructed the jury to only consider the evidence of financial crimes insofar as it fit the motive, but not as to how it reflected on Murdaugh.

Defense attorneys said they were skeptical jurors followed that.

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"Once they got that character information -- 'he's a thief, he's a liar' -- then this jury had to think that he's a despicable human being and not be believed," defense attorney Dick Harpootlian said. "So it was about character, it wasn't about motive."

He added in an interview with CNN: "Human nature is human nature and after you've listened two and a half weeks about what a monster he is ... you're not going to be inclined to come to his defense."

Fellow defense attorney Jim Griffin said the evidence of financial wrongdoing, which Murdaugh was "obviously guilty of," also impacted the seriousness of deliberations.

"The weight of their decision is just not as great under that situation because the guy's going to jail, the guy has been in jail, so is the outcome of our decision going to be life changing for him? No," Griffin said. "I think that was a problem in the jury deliberations. That's why it did not get as serious a deliberation as we expected."

Waters, the prosecutor, told CNN he was confident the judge appropriately weighed the issues.

"I'm certainly not going to speak for the state Supreme Court, but Judge Newman considered all of that and issued a very detailed and well-thought-out ruling, so we're confident that will be upheld," he said.

Gloria Satterfield death investigation

Satterfield, a longtime housekeeper for the Murdaugh family, died in 2018 in what was described as a "trip and fall accident" at the Murdaugh home, according to attorney Eric Bland, who is representing her estate.

But there are questions about the nature of her death.

In June 2022, South Carolina law enforcement officials announced they sought and received permission to exhume her remains. The exhumation stems from a Hampton County coroner's request that led to the state law enforcement division opening a criminal investigation into Satterfield's death.

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"The decedent's death was not reported to the Coroner at the time, nor was an autopsy performed. On the death certificate the manner of death was ruled 'Natural,' which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident," the coroner's request to the law enforcement division said.

Relatedly, Murdaugh was arrested in October 2021 on a warrant for allegedly misappropriating funds meant for the Satterfield family. In December of that year, he agreed to a $4.3 million settlement with her family, according to family attorney, Eric Bland.

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