Disgraced Hampton County attorney Alex Murdaugh will appear before a judge at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Dec. 13, in Columbia, for a virtual bond hearing, according to the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.
State Grand Jury Judge Allison Lee will preside.
It is not clear whether Lee will be setting bond on all 48 charges that have been handed down by the state Grand Jury since November or just the original 27 charges Murdaugh was set to be arraigned on Friday morning before the hearing was postponed.
On Thursday evening, FITSNews was first to report that the state Grand Jury had indicted Murdaugh on an additional 21 charges. Shortly after, the Friday morning bond hearing was delayed.
Supreme Court Order
Lee was assigned to the case recently in a move by the S.C. Supreme Court that some have seen as a concerning contradiction to an earlier judicial assignment.
Judge Clifton Newman was hand-picked by the court in September to handle criminal matters related to Alex Murdaugh. The assignment was made in a good faith as a way to address any public worry that the Murdaugh family’s influence could result in conflicts of interest or even favoritism in the courtroom.
After Newman denied Murdaugh bond in October, Murdaugh’s attorneys moved to override the judge’s decision and filed a writ of habeas corpus with the state Supreme Court. The court has not yet ruled on that request.
Then last week, the S.C. Supreme court issued an order stating that Lee, the current responding judge of the state grand jury, will handle initial bail matters for Alex Murdaugh on charges that were brought by the state grand jury.
Lee has been criticized by this news outlet multiple times for giving bond to violent offenders in the past.
In fact, she was blocked from becoming a federal judge because of her penchant for excessive judicial leniency.
Lee also was denied a seat on the S.C. appeals court because lawmakers were concerned about her doling out bond to violent criminals.
On Thursday, our founding editor Will Folks wrote about the reactions some in the legal community have had to Lee’s assignment:
“The specific wording of the order (above) is troubling as it authorizes Lee to set bail and hear “any motions to adjust the amount or conditions of bail for defendants” indicted by the statewide grand jury.
“‘Defendants’ being the operative word …
“Some attorneys have speculated Harpootlian and Griffin will argue Lee is empowered to address Newman’s denial of bond because Murdaugh is a defendant under indictment by the statewide grand jury – even though the charges on which he is currently detained were filed in the S.C. fourteenth judicial circuit.”
The Latest Charges
Murdaugh, who was arrested Oct. 14, is being held without bond at the Richland County Detention Center. He now faces a total of 53 charges in crimes that include fraud, theft, money laundering, forgery and lying to police in a Labor Day shooting incident.
”This guy is taking advantage of people he’s known since they were in diapers,” a source close to the investigations into Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes told FITSNews.com on Thursday shortly after the latest indictments were handed down.
The new charges include:
- 9 counts of breach of trust with fraudulent Intent
- 7 counts of computer crimes
- 4 counts of money laundering
- 1 count of forgery
As of Thursday, Murdaugh is accused of stealing more than $6.2 million in alleged schemes dating back to 2016.
Murdaugh stands accused of creating bank accounts under a fake business name that closely resembled that of Forge Consulting LLC, a legitimate agency that is used by lawyers to manage settlement money for clients.
In June 2016, Murdaugh allegedly told his client Johnny Bush that he had spent $100,000 of his settlement money on accident reconstruction for Bush’s case. Instead, Murdaugh had a check written for $95,000 to “Forge,” under the guise that the money was for Bush’s “structured funds.”
Murdaugh allegedly deposited the money in a “Forge” bank account and used the money for himself, withdrawing some as cash, paying credit card bills and writing checks to associates.
In August 2016, Murdaugh allegedly had a $90,000 check written from his now-former law firm’s client trust account with the description “RE: Jamian Risher” and made out to “Forge.” The money “was supposed to be compensation to Jamian Risher (of Hampton County) for his injuries.”
Murdaugh then deposited the money in his Forge bank account and used the money to pay his credit cards, withdraw as cash and write checks to himself and associates, according to the indictments.
Three years later, between August and November 2019, Murdaugh is accused of using more than $5,000 of Risher’s settlement money for personal travel to New York. Murdaugh allegedly pretended that the more than $5,000 he spent on the flight and meals was an expense related to Risher’s case.
In August 2018, Murdaugh allegedly convinced Jordan Jinks, a longtime friend of the family who had come to Murdaugh for help, that his now-former law firm had to hold $85,000 of Jinks’ settlement proceeds to “satisfy a medical insurance lien.”
Murdaugh is accused of taking the money for himself and depositing it into his Forge bank account, which he used for credit card payments, withdrew as cash and wrote checks to associates.
Murdaugh is accused of doing this same thing two months later with an additional $65,000 of Jinks’ settlement money, again telling Jinks that the money was to pay a medical lien stemming from Jinks’ injuries.
Murdaugh is also accused of forging Jinks’ signature on a “disbursement sheet” in which Jinks was ostensibly acknowledging and approving that he received the money that Murdaugh allegedly stole.
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In April 2019, Murdaugh is accused of gaining the trust of the personal representative for the Blondell Gary estate in Hampton County and taking $112,500 of the estate’s money from his now former law firm’s client trust account. Murdaugh allegedly deposited this money in his Forge bank account and used it to pay family members, pay credit card bills, withdraw as cash and write checks to associates.
Between February and July 2020, a man named Christopher Anderson came to Alex Murdaugh for help. Anderson, of Hampton County, was hurt on the job and was supposed to receive a $750,000 check for his injuries, according to court documents.
Through his “Forge account” Murdaugh stole the $750,000 from Anderson and told him that the money was being held in an annuity account for structured settlements, according to the indictment.
Between November and December 2020, Murdaugh convinced a Colleton County client who was representing the estate of Sandra Taylor that the total wrongful death recovery of the estate would only be $30,000 and that he wasn’t going to take a fee because it was “so low,” according to the indictment.
Murdaugh actually recovered more than $180,000 in the settlement and stole more than $150,000 through his infamous “Forge” account, according to the indictment.
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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