Incarcerated attorney Alex Murdaugh‘s “fatally flawed” request to be dropped as a defendant in the Gloria Satterfield civil suit is “akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic — it will not change the outcome,” attorneys for Satterfield’s surviving sons wrote Tuesday in response to Murdaugh’s Nov. 17 motion to dismiss.
In his motion, Murdaugh — who is facing 32 criminal charges, many of which are related to financial fraud and money laundering — had argued that he has no obligation to repay the $3.6 million he is alleged to have stolen from the Satterfield family in their wrongful death claim against him because his co-defendants in the case have already more than made up for that loss.
This move was met with confusion, revulsion and much speculation from those following the hairpin turns of this case.
The unflinching response filed by Columbia attorneys Eric Bland, Ronald L. Richter Jr. and Scott Mongillo on Tuesday urges the court to deny Murdaugh’s motion, saying Murdaugh is simply trying to avoid “paying the price” of his decision to assert his Fifth Amendment rights in the criminal trial.
“It is not surprising,” the attorneys wrote, “and is in keeping with his character, that Murdaugh does not want to pay anyone anything.”
In his “legally unsupportable” defense, “Murdaugh attempts to use his own illegal conduct as a shield against claims in a civil litigation.”
Murdaugh, a member of the powerful family that has loomed large over law enforcement in the Lowcountry, is currently being held without bail at the Richland County Detention Center on two grand larceny charges related to the Satterfield case.
Last week he was indicted on 27 new charges related to stealing money from his former law firm, Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick, and clients, including a law enforcement officer who had been injured in the line of duty.
He was also named as a person of interest in the still-unsolved double murder of his wife and son, who were shot to death at the family’s hunting property on June 7.
Tuesday’s filing is the latest volley in a fast-moving back and forth between Bland and Murdaugh’s attorneys, who appear to be testing tactics on the fly as the charges mount against their client.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Murdaugh’s “bulldog” attorneys state Sen. Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin filed a “desperate” motion asking the court to stop Bland from speaking to the media — primarily FITSNews and our news director Mandy Matney’s “Murdaugh Murders” podcast — and requesting that Bland be sanctioned by the state for the statements he’s made in the press thus far.
On Monday evening, Bland pointed out how ironic it was that Harpootlian, whom he referred to as a “.44 caliber quote machine,” would call him out on his press coverage given Harpootlian’s own potentially harmful comments in the spotlight.
In a press release from the Bland and Richter law firm Tuesday morning, Bland included a quote from Harpootlian during an interview on “Good Morning America”: “(Alex Murdaugh) has indicated clearly that he is going to try to right every wrong – financial wrong – and others that he may have committed. Look, he’s reconciled to the fact he’s going to prison. He understands that. He’s a lawyer.”
Bland said his own statements to the press have been made in good faith and in the public’s best interest.
His firm’s filing Tuesday directly articulates why so many people have been following the ongoing Murdaugh Murders Saga: “The public is waiting and watching to see how South Carolina Courts will handle a once powerful and influential attorney.”
“Is there one system of justice for all or a two-tiered justice system that favors the wealthy and powerful?”
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.
Attorneys for the Satterfield family say that “it is not Murdaugh’s place to declare the Plaintiff’s ‘whole’ and announce that the lawsuit against him is over.”
Further, they say that the more than $7 million recovered so far does not nearly account for the money the Satterfield family lost out on in potential investments had the money been given to them in 2019 when the case settled; the money they have to pay in taxes that they otherwise would not have had to pay had the settlement been handled ethically; the payment of attorneys’ fees and costs pursuant to South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act; and punitive damages.
Per the U.S. Supreme Court, the punitive damages would be determined, in part, based on the “degree of reprehensibility” of the wrongdoing.
“Clearly Murdaugh’s conduct is beyond reprehensible and is punishable by punitive damages.”
Therefore, the attorneys argued, Murdaugh’s damages exposure is more like $38,990,350.
“Much to Murdaugh’s chagrin, he will have to wait until the jury speaks,” they wrote.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet her @ElizFarrell.
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