For generations, the Murdaugh family has been considered and — by all accounts — has considered themselves to be VIPs of the Lowcountry legal system.
This, of course, stems from the family patriarchs’ long history serving as chief prosecutors over the five counties that make up the 14th Judicial Circuit.
Over the course of 86 years, three iterations of “Randolph Murdaugh” had the power to decide who would and who wouldn’t be held accountable for their alleged crimes.
Even after their official reign ended in 2006, this family name has continued to hold notable sway in various law enforcement circles, particularly in Hampton County.
Stories abound in and around Columbia, Charleston, Beaufort and Hilton Head Island, as well as among law enforcement officers and lawyers, about the scrapes that now-disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh — a son of the final Randolph Murdaugh to hold office as solicitor — would get into …
… and then promptly and proudly get out of because of who his father, grandfather and great-grandfather were.
These stories include tales of alleged bar fights, driving under the influence, asking law enforcement officers “Bo, do you know who I am?,” and being escorted home like a diplomat’s son instead of getting arrested.
As one might imagine, paper trails that back up these stories are practically nonexistent, and sources have been generally hesitant to go on the record with their memories.
Through a recent Freedom of Information Act request, however, FITSNews was able to unearth a nearly 30-year-old Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office report containing details that, at least in part, corroborate accounts of what sources have said Alex was like in his earlier years.
Typically, the allegedly drunken antics during a man’s 20s are no longer relevant when that man has reached his 50s. In the case of Alex Murdaugh — a longtime badge-carrying representative of the 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office and a partner at one of the state’s most powerful law firms until recently — a past marked by self-exceptionalism, apparent bullying and a pervasive lack of consequence is prologue.
Therefore it is fair game, especially as we continue to look at the broken social and legal systems in South Carolina that permitted his alleged behavior time and again.
In the early morning of Feb. 28, 1993, Alex Murdaugh, now 53, was accused of starting a violent brawl at a strip club on Hilton Head Island.
At least two men were injured in the fight.
Three men were charged with Public Disorderly Conduct.
Alex, who was 25 at the time and enrolled at University of South Carolina School of Law, was one of them.
One of the three men was taken to jail.
The other was allowed to go to the hospital, where a law enforcement officer was awaiting his arrival.
Alex, on the other hand, was driven home to Varnville — a full hour and 20 minutes away from Hilton Head — by a deputy.
Here are the details of what happened that morning …
‘The Guy With Red Hair … Refused To Go’
Around midnight, a group of Alex Murdaugh’s friends went to the bar at Cadillacs Club to order more drinks, but the bartender decided it was time to cut them off.
“They appeared intoxicated, so I refused to serve them,” the 23-year-old bartender wrote in his statement to deputies. “They were somewhat belligerent.”
Immediately after, Alex Murdaugh decided he needed another drink.
“Another gentleman approached the bar — a tall heavy redhead,” the bartender wrote. “He asked for another beer and I refused him service as well because he appeared intoxicated. The redheaded gentleman became abusive and I asked him to leave.”
Alex allegedly wouldn’t go, so the bartender called over two bouncers to escort him out of the club.
The bouncers, both in their early 20s, attempted to remove Alex from the establishment.
“Once the gentleman reached the doors,” one of them wrote about Alex, “he instantly became more aggressive and was asking in certain words to fight.”
Another employee of the club noted that the bouncers tried to get “the guy with red hair outside but he refused to go. Then he started to get all of his friends all riled up.”
This is when the bouncers were bum-rushed by 10 to 15 of Alex Murdaugh’s friends.
“They began to push and shove … and became extremely violent. There were three to four men … pushing, shoving and swinging at me. All of the men were highly intoxicated, and I did not know who had bottles or weapons or who was going to attack me from behind,” one of the bouncers wrote.
This bouncer was then clocked on the back of the head by one of Alex’s friends. He turned around and punched “the dark-haired gentleman” — who was an apparent friend of Alex — in the face.
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‘The Drunk Got What He Deserved’
The bartender who had refused to serve Alex and his friends saw what was happening. He secured his cash box and went to help the bouncers, one of whom called 9-1-1.
Another employee wrote that he heard verbal threats being made and saw one of the bouncers get thrown against the window. This employee said he grabbed the man responsible for assaulting the bouncer and pushed him against the wall.
A sergeant with the Marines stationed on Parris Island was at Cadillacs that night and witnessed the brawl. He wrote in his statement to deputies that there was a “big mix up” of fighting men in the lobby of the club.
“The bouncer was telling the problem guys to leave but they were rowdy and didn’t want to, so they had to force them out and one of them hit the window and started trouble as the smaller bouncer was swung at and the bouncer avoided the swing and retaliated with a nice punch and the drunk got what he deserved! The bouncers were in the right and the customers were wrong in this case!!”
Deputies arrived shortly after being called. Emergency medical personnel were called to the scene to tend to Alex’s friend who was punched in the face by a bouncer and bleeding. That friend, a 27-year-old man from Mount Pleasant, refused medical aid but later said he wanted his friends to take him to the hospital.
A deputy was sent to Hilton Head Hospital to wait for the man’s arrival but, according to the reports, the man never arrived.
The man — who was identified as the man that assaulted a bouncer — was ticketed and charged with Public Disorderly Conduct. Neither he nor Alex were arrested.
Another man, a 27-year-old from Columbia, was charged with Public Disorderly Conduct as well but was taken to jail. The report does not detail what this man allegedly did, nor does it note whether he was part of Alex’s group.
A Deputy Drove Murdaugh Home … More Than An Hour Away
After deputies broke up the fight and Alex was issued his ticket, a deputy, Patrolman First Class Walter Criddle, drove him home, according to the report.
“Murdaugh wasn’t able to drive nor was he able to obtain a ride home,” the deputy noted.
According to the report, Alex lived in Varnville at the time — a 67-mile, one hour and 20 minute drive from Hilton Head.
At the time, the sheriff of Beaufort County was D.J. Lucas.
Alex and the other two men charged that night were scheduled for a hearing on March 29, 1993. The report does not include copies of the tickets that were issued nor does it note the outcomes of the cases.
A background check done on Alex Murdaugh through Nexis noted that the charge was dismissed on March 25, 1993.
Murdaugh graduated from law school just over a year later and was admitted into the South Carolina Bar Association in November 1994.
Those who have followed the 2019 fatal boat crash involving Alex’s 19-year-old son Paul might have noticed similarities between the behavior of the younger Murdaugh and his father, who is currently facing 74 criminal charges and being held at the Richland County Detention Center in lieu of $7 million bond.
He is accused of stealing more than $8.4 million from clients, including a South Carolina Highway Patrolman who was injured in the line of duty, the family of the woman who helped raise Alex’s sons and a deaf, quadriplegic man and his family.
FITSNews will continue to examine Alex Murdaugh’s past, as well as the systemic failures, legal favors and culture of silence that paved the way for his alleged crimes. If you have information or know of documents we should request through the Freedom of Information Act, click here to submit a tip.
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@example.com or tweet her @ElizFarrell.
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