At some point in the not-too-distant future (weeks? months?), federal authorities are likely to charge South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh with a crime. Or more likely with lots of crimes.
And based on what we know about this ongoing saga – which revolves around the disgraced lawyer, his powerful South Carolina family and the influential law firm it founded a century ago – that makes lots of sense.
After all, lots of people are dead. And lots of money is missing … perhaps tied to some seriously sinister shadiness. This is why from the very first whispers of federal involvement, I have consistently supported resources from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) being brought to bear on this case.
Why? Because the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ saga is huge … and hugely layered. And because there appears to be no shortage of criminal activity for investigators and prosecutors to go after …
Unfortunately, the feds have failed to distinguish themselves in their handling of this investigation from the very beginning. If anything, they have effed it from the get-go.
And while there has been no indication or suggestion that agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have been anything other than cooperative with state investigators (and supportive of their mission), on the prosecutorial side of the ledger the feds have made an absolute mess of things.
As I reported earlier this fall, the entrance of federal prosecutors into this case has been steeped in scandal thanks in large part to a nefarious bid by Murdaugh defense attorney Dick Harpootlian to negotiate a backdoor plea agreement for his client. Beyond that, there has been a superfluity of bickering and conflicts within the office of acting U.S attorney Rhett DeHart – and a ham-fisted bid by the feds to force the state to heel.
Has the state subjugated itself to its federal overlords? Hell no …
The office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson has made it abundantly clear that any federal negotiations with Alex Murdaugh would have “zero bearing” on the disposition of the state charges filed against him.
“The state is not acquiescing to any federal plea deal,” a source familiar with Wilson’s conversations told me back in October. “The state is not going to resolve any of its Murdaugh-related cases based on anything the feds do.”
That insistence has only intensified in the intervening months …
Additionally, DeHart was explicitly warned by Wilson that his involvement in the case could potentially jeopardize one of the ongoing state investigations – namely the double homicide inquiry into the death of Alex Murdaugh’s wife and youngest son which is being investigated by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
Murdaugh – the man at the heart of this true crime saga – remains a ‘person of interest’ in connection with that probe, one of no fewer than seven active criminal inquiries at the state level into him, his family or former law firm.
As of this writing, Murdaugh is already facing a litany of state charges – with more state charges on the way, according to sources familiar with the status of the ongoing investigation. He has yet to be federally charged, however.
The 53-year-old is also staring down the business end of multiple civil lawsuits, including one filed just this week.
The latest charges against Murdaugh – on which he is scheduled to be arraigned Friday – include seven counts of money laundering and eight counts of computer crimes. Additional money laundering and computer-related charges at the state level are likely forthcoming, sources familiar with the investigation have told me.
Is that significant? Absolutely …
One of the most likely avenues of entry into this case for federal prosecutors would have been the alleged money laundering or computer crime angles. And while those avenues remain open to federal prosecutors (after all, there is no shortage of alleged Murdaugh-related fleecing victims), the state’s aggressive prosecutorial moves are quickly closing off many of those approaches.
“These are bold moves by the state,” a former federal prosecutor told me over the weekend, referring to the latest round of indictments. “They are blocking the feds – crowding them out before they can even get in.”
Is that true? Yes, according to a state source who is very close to the ongoing inquiry.
“We are sending them a message,” the source told me. “They are being put on notice.”
This news outlet will continue to keep its eyes peeled for Murdaugh-related charges being filed at either the state or federal level, but for now the “full-scale turf war” envisioned in this case between warring prosecutors appears to be a decidedly one-sided affair.
It’s all being driven by the state …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that Chicago Blackhawks’ lid pictured above).
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