A week after the attorney for Mallory Beach’s estate called on Parker’s convenience store and its owner Gregory M. Parker Inc. to be held in contempt of court for allegedly providing confidential materials — including a video with Beach family interviews on it and photos of Beach’s dead body — to a documentary filmmaker covering the Murdaugh family, the defendants have filed a response urging the court to deny the motion.
In a filing dated December 7, Parker’s accuses Beach’s attorney — Mark Tinsley of the Gooding and Gooding law firm in Allendale, S.C. — of manipulating the media, misleading the court and “wagging the dog.”
Tinsley “has shown a penchant for placing this case in the public eye and establishing repeated contact with the media,” Parker’s attorneys E. Mitchell Griffith and Kelly D. Dean, of Griffith, Freeman and Liipfert in Beaufort, S.C., wrote in their filing.
Parker’s once again appears to be (unsuccessfully) attempting to intimidate and discredit this outlet and our news director, Mandy Matney — who has been at the forefront of shining a light on this case and other actions involving the powerful Murdaugh family of Hampton, S.C.
The filing falsely claimed Tinsley showed Matney the video in question — which would have meant confidentiality of the video no longer existed.
Were that allegation true …
Additionally, through what appears to be intentionally vague language, the filing attempts to squeeze any last bit of juice out of the appearance of a single quote from Beach’s mother provided to Matney by Tinsley in July 2020 — a quote which appeared in two FITSNews articles.
We’ll talk more about this in a moment. First, some background …
The Murdaughs and Vicky Ward
The filing is the latest exchange in a lengthening list of contentious legal dramas revolving around Hampton County attorney Alex Murdaugh, who is a defendant in the Beach lawsuit along with his elder son, Buster Murdaugh.
The lawsuit was filed shortly after 19-year-old Beach, of Hampton County, was killed in a February 2019 crash in Murdaugh’s boat, which at the time was allegedly driven by Murdaugh’s intoxicated 19-year-old son Paul.
The suit accuses:
- Alex Murdaugh of enabling and encouraging Paul’s drinking and driving
- Buster Murdaugh of providing Paul with a copy of his South Carolina driver’s license to use to purchase alcohol underage
- Parker’s of failing to follow its own corporate policies in its sales transaction with Paul before the crash
As readers are no doubt aware, Paul was murdered this past summer along with his mother. At the time of his death, he was facing three felony boating under the influence charges.
No arrests have been made in his or his mother’s killings … yet.
Last week’s filing comes in response to a motion made on November 30 by Tinsley after a three-minute trailer was posted online promoting a documentary series produced by New York-based reporter Vicky Ward, BlackFin and People.
The series purports to “expose everything” about the Murdaugh saga — boasting of “exclusive access to dozens of never before seen videos.”
In early October, Tinsley sought to depose Ward after he said she disclosed to him the source of materials she had obtained from the Beach case. Sometime around September 14, 2021, Tinsley says, Ward admitted to him that she had “purchased portions of what she called ‘the Beach case file’ and that the same came from ‘Parker and his law firm’ of ‘Baker Hostetler‘ but that she felt ‘they were slimy,’ they ‘had an agenda’ and that she ‘has nothing to do with them’ other than she received ‘their stuff.’”
In this motion, Tinsley says he informed Ward at that time of the illegality of her possessing those materials.
The trailer features evidence photos of Beach’s body that were never released to the public, as well as six clips from the confidential video presentation that was shown during the mediation process.
Ward denies telling Tinsley this and denies purchasing any materials related to the case.
Tinsley’s November 30 motion asked the court to issue sanctions against Parker’s, hold them in contempt and to have a hearing on the morning of Dec. 10 in which Parker’s would have to testify under oath that Gregory M. Parker Inc. “along with its responsible representatives” did not facilitate an acquisition of the confidential materials.
The Friday morning hearing was postponed after Tinsley filed a separate lawsuit December 3 on behalf of Beach’s mother, father, stepmother, sister and brother-in-law against Gregory M. Parker, Gregory M. Parker Inc., Parker’s Corporation, Parker’s attorneys Blake Greco and Jason D’Cruz, reporter Vicky Ward, private investigators Matt Fratoddi and Henry Rosado, as well as Bluffton-based Private Investigations Group LLC.
(Click to Listen)
RELATED | CHEER INCORPORATED
Noting that contempt of court is considered an “extreme measure” in South Carolina, Parker’s attorneys make four arguments in their most recent filing as to why the court should deny Tinsley’s November 30 motion:
Argument No. 1: They have no proof.
The Beach motion did not include any sworn statements proving that Parker’s is connected to Ward’s acquisition of the confidential materials, and Tinsley himself cannot serve as a witness to what he says Ward told him, according to the filing.
Parker’s goes on to note that Ward, in a statement made through her attorney, denied purchasing materials, “therefore, the allegations that she purchased portions of ‘the Beach case file’ from ‘Parker and his law firm’ are highly suspect.”
So … because Ward said she didn’t do it, any claim that she did is “highly suspect”? Hmmmm.
Argument No. 2: Gregory M. Parker Inc. and its attorneys didn’t do this.
According to Parkers’s attorneys, the Beach filing does not say who leaked the information, when it happened or how it happened. And furthermore, for their part, Parker’s has always sought to keep the video confidential.
For instance, when they filed a motion in November 2020 requesting a change of venue and seeking permission to use the mediation video — which is owned by the Beach family — to make their case, the “exact content sought to be used was not discussed.”
This was done intentionally, they say.
To be clear, Parker’s motion was the first time the existence of a mediation video was ever made public. To my mind, this sounds a bit like the “Streisand effect” — in which the party complaining about something being publicized is actually the same party publicizing it.
Parker’s attorneys maintain the only reason they acknowledged the existence of a video in the public domain was because “editorials were posted online” that indicated “the mediation video has already been disseminated.”
Parker’s does not specifically tell the court which “editorials” they are referring to in this argument … but in all likelihood they are referring to this story and this one, neither of which mentions a video.
FITSNews chose not to write about Parker’s November 2020 motion because the motivations were so transparent. To us, it was clear Parker’s was using very weak correlations to fuel its tawdry insinuations in an attempt to erode at the trust we have built with our readers over the years.
Argument No. 3: But if they DID do it … well, the Plaintiff did it first so it wouldn’t matter anyway.
The latest filing repeats Parker’s November 2020 claims by saying “Plaintiff’s counsel placed the video in the public domain through his repeated contact with Fitsnews [sic].”
The same month the video was released to Parker’s attorneys, they say, “Fitsnews [sic] released an editorial by Mandy Matney, which set forth information that was exclusively contained within the Plaintiff’s video.”
That “information” was a quote from Renee Beach, who is Mallory’s mother.
Here is the quote (with its context from both the July 2020 story and October 2020 story):
Beach’s parents want to make it clear that the lawsuit is about more than their daughter’s tragic death — it is about holding parties accountable so that more tragic accidents do not occur.
“I think that’s the problem …(Parker’s) is not training them properly, so that’s why kids are coming in with fake IDs or using their brother’s ID and they’re not trained so they don’t know what to look for,” Mallory’s mother Renee Beach said. “If they would start training them properly, it would help save someone else’s life.”
It is a common practice for journalists to ask for quotes from clients through their attorneys.
This quote is not provided within in the response, but the July 2020 story was filed as an exhibit.
The filing says that Tinsley has provided “a sundry of quotes to Fitsnews [sic] in particular.”
In a footnote to that claim, Parker’s attorneys say “for brevity” they’re not including “all articles quoting Plaintiff’s counsel” and appear to be instructing the judge to “Google” Tinsley and FITSNews.
A quick search of FITSNews’ archives shows that while Tinsley has been mentioned in about 40 stories written about the boat crash case, he does not appear to be quoted in any of them. Instead, his words have been attributed to publicly available court documents and arguments made in the courtroom.
Argument No. 4: This ain’t the place.
According to Parker’s attorneys, the Beach motion doesn’t apply to this case because it accuses Gregory M. Parker as a person (instead of Greg Parker the corporation) and it accuses Parker’s personal attorneys.
Neither Parker (as an individual) nor Parker’s personal attorneys are parties to the Beach lawsuit.
Accordingly, the motion “fails as a matter of law,” according to Parker’s (corporate) attorneys.
What happens next in this case?
A recently postponed December 10 hearing in this case has yet to be rescheduled. Neither Parker’s nor Beach’s attorneys have submitted any sworn testimony attesting to the innocence or guilt of those accused in the motion.
It is likely the second lawsuit filed on December 3 — which is scheduled for mediation on July 1, 2022 – will involve a number of depositions that could conceivably reveal how Ward ended up in possession of confidential court materials.
A court date has yet to be scheduled to hear the 2019 case. On December 1, Alex Murdaugh and Buster Murdaugh filed responses to the Beach estate’s amended complaint, which was submitted on November 15.
In the responses, the Murdaughs deny all wrong-doing on their part and deny Paul was driving the boat at the time of the crash. The Murdaughs make a point of admitting in the response that Paul and the other minor boat occupants had purchased alcohol from Parker’s on February 23, 2019, that “Paul was intoxicated from alcohol sold by Parker’s to a minor,” that the boat was owned by Alex at the time of the crash, and that the boat crashed in Archer’s Creek.
We will continue to report in depth on this and other developments involving the case.
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.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to address proactively? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.