Attorneys for disgraced Hampton County attorney Alex Murdaugh filed a surprisingly aggressive motion late Monday seeking a gag order and other sanctions against attorney Eric Bland, whose repeated calls for justice have been quoted in the media since Bland began representing the family of the Murdaughs’ deceased longtime housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, this September.
“This is full-contact litigation,” Bland said of the motion Monday evening. “They are feeling the heat.”
The highly detailed motion from state senator Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, who are defending Murdaugh against more than thirty criminal charges as of this past Friday, contains six pages cataloguing Bland’s colorful quotes, including several that have appeared in FITNews as well as quotes featured in our news director Mandy Matney’s hugely popular podcast, “The Murdaugh Murders.”
The filing, which refers to Murdaugh as a “recovering opioid addict” whose opioid use had “spiraled out of control” after the murders of his wife and son, asks the court for sanctions “including an award of costs and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in this motion, and referral of Mr. Bland’s conduct to the Office of Disciplinary counsel.”
The motion is the latest head scratcher from Harpootlian and Griffin – who are becoming increasingly ostracized in the state’s legal community for their off-kilter tactics, fact-challenged narratives, diminished clout and plain old desperation in connection with this case. Once viewed as among the state’s most respected and capable litigators, the two “bulldogs” appear to be going down with Murdaugh’s ship quite willingly.
In a footnote, Harpootlian and Griffin clarify that Murdaugh is not seeking a gag order against Bland’s co-counsel, Ronald Richter. Nor is he seeking to silence his co-defendants’ counsel.
“Unlike Mr. Bland, these lawyers have not repeatedly made prejudicial statements to news media about this proceeding. Mr. Murdaugh does not, however, object to a gag order that applies equally to his lawyers and lawyers for the other parties.”
On Monday, Bland laughed at the extreme irony in Harpootlian and Griffin accusing him of using the media to the benefit of his clients.
“For Dick of all people to file this motion is really rich,” Bland said. “It’s OK for Dick Harpootlian to make a statement about anything and everything. Dick has never seen a microphone he hasn’t stopped to talk to or a camera he wouldn’t stand in front of.”
“I love listening to him,” Bland said. “He makes me laugh.”
Bland made it clear to FITSNews that he has no plans to stop speaking out against what he sees as a system that has allowed Murdaugh to thrive and has bent over backward to protect while people like his clients continue to suffer.
In fact, he sees his statements to the media as a public service and a matter of public interest.
“It’s going to take a lot to stop me,” Bland said. “What I have learned is, they only try to shut you up when they know you’re effective.”
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THE SATTERFIELD CASE
Gloria Satterfield died in early 2018 after a trip and fall at the Murdaughs’ Moselle hunting lodge, the same property where Alex Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, were discovered murdered this past summer.
Murdaugh and others are accused of making off with millions of dollars from a wrongful death settlement filed on behalf of Satterfield’s two sons by Murdaugh’s close friend, Beaufort attorney Cory Fleming.
Since then, Murdaugh has been accused of laundering this money — along with settlements allegedly stolen from clients, including a law enforcement officer who was injured in the line of duty — and spending it on himself.
The Satterfield case has gripped the nation and been held up as an example of what many say is Murdaugh’s callousness and greed. So far Bland and Richter have been able to recover upward of $7 million from Murdaugh’s co-defendants in the case.
Just last Wednesday, Harpootlian and Griffin argued in a motion to dismiss the suit that Gloria Satterfield’s sons have been “fully compensated for their alleged losses,” therefore Murdaugh — who was allegedly the ringleader in the scheme — should not have to pay any money back.
Quoted in Monday’s motion is Bland’s reaction to this filing on Matney’s podcast.
“I didn’t think anybody had the set of balls to actually put that in a pleading: Yes, if I took the money, I just keep it because somebody else repaid it for me.”
“I AM A GNAT ON AN ELEPHANT OF THE BAD PRESS ALEX MURDAUGH HAS GOTTEN”
On Monday evening, Bland marveled at Harpootlian’s and Griffin’s latest maneuver.
“I am a gnat on an elephant of the bad press Alex Murdaugh has gotten,” he said. “Show me one favorable piece of press that’s been written about Alex by anybody. ‘He’s a wonderful guy. He’s so benevolent.’ Nothing. Nobody is saying that.”
Bland also referred to Harpootlian’s and Griffin’s frequent appearances on television and in newspapers. Harpootlian, he said, went on Good Morning America to declare that Alex Murdaugh had accepted that jail time was in his future and that he had done wrong.
Griffin, he noted, taunted Mandy Matney on Twitter, telling her he’d bet her a bottle of rum that Murdaugh’s unreleased medical records indicated he’d been shot in the Labor Day incident on Old Salkahatchie Road.
“Alex Murdaugh is entitled to his day in court and the presumption of innocence,” Bland said. “I didn’t create these indictments. I didn’t hand them down. The grand jury did.”
“Everybody is writing about him,” Bland said. “The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, People magazine …”
“Shutting Eric Bland down isn’t going to shut down the bad Alex Murdaugh press.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Liz Farrell is the new executive editor at FITSNews. She was named 2018’s top columnist in the state by South Carolina Press Association and is back after taking a nearly two-year break from corporate journalism to reclaim her soul. Email her at [email protected] or tweet her @ElizFarrell.
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