National Democratic political heavyweight (and South Carolina state senator) Dick Harpootlian must be smiling. The influential attorney – who loves to play the part of kingmaker and puppeteer – has reportedly been working feverishly behind the scenes of late in the hopes of “reframing the game” related to his defense of disgraced ex-lawyer Alex Murdaugh.
Harpootlian needs a win in this high-profile case … desperately.
Murdaugh has found himself at the center of a mushrooming crime and corruption scandal. As the charges against him mount, though, the representation he has received from Harpootlian has been … well … lacking.
Which is a generous assessment of the latter’s performance …
Not only has Harpootlian seen his reputation dragged down in the mud thanks to Murdaugh’s notoriety, but his uneven performance in court – and in the national media – has many questioning whether the “bulldog” lawyer still has it.
Again, Harpootlian needs a win …
Accordingly, the 73-year-old attorney has been aggressively moving chess pieces in recent weeks – eager to maximize leverage and improve his positioning. Time is of the essence, too. State and federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors are working hard to unravel the maze of alleged criminality revolving around Murdaugh, his powerful South Carolina family and the influential law firm it founded over a century ago in the Palmetto Lowcountry.
And they are making progress …
With fresh indictments imminent in the case – and Murdaugh staring down increasingly dire consequences in connection with the highest-profile state inquiry (the ongoing investigation into the June 2021 double homicide at his family’s Colleton County hunting property) – every space on the chessboard matters.
And every move made on that board raises the stakes of the game …
One of the chess pieces reportedly being moved by Harpootlian? Me … and my news outlet.
Sources familiar with Harpootlian’s strategy tell me he is orchestrating the flow of information to multiple media outlets – including mine – alternately releasing and withholding tips via his expansive network in the hopes of pushing different narratives via different publications. His goal? To curry favor for some of these media outlets within the state and federal judiciary – while baiting others into deeper conflict with these powerful institutions.
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Like Oz behind the curtain, Harpootlian is said to be dispatching his minions – of which there are many – to feed stories to reporters here at FITSNews, at The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier and at The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper.
His efforts are working, too …
At least three stories recently published by this news outlet are said to have been “claimed” by Harpootlian – including an extensive piece I ran on judicial reform last week which blistered South Carolina chief justice Donald Beatty.
“To say things have deteriorated under his watch would be far too charitable an assessment of his reign over the Palmetto State’s scandal scarred judicial branch of government,” I wrote of Beatty in the judicial reform piece, one of several choice excoriations I leveled against the chief justice.
Beatty was none too pleased with the harsh coverage … which according to my sources was Harpootlian’s objective.
During a recent gathering of supreme court justices, administrative judges and solicitors, the chief justice reportedly blasted “the fake news” no fewer than eight times – references which those in attendance took to mean this news outlet.
Harpootlian was reportedly giddy upon learning of Beatty’s reaction … presuming an escalation of ill will between FITSNews (which has been leading the charge in exposing the depths of Murdaugh-related corruption) and the state’s judicial branch will accrue to the benefit of his client.
“He’s like a terrorist leader taking credit,” a source who discussed the Beatty story with Harpootlian told me last week.
Let me be clear on something: I don’t care if Harpootlian is behind the recent leaks. Nor do I care if the stories I write piss off the chief justice. I opposed Beatty’s election to the supreme court fifteen years ago. I opposed his ascension to chief justice five years ago. And barring some seismic shift in his woke conception of “justice,” I will continue to oppose him.
I flat don’t give a rip.
As I noted last week, Beatty is pure status quo. His appeasement of violent criminals (including the totally unnecessary Covid-19 shutdown of the state’s judicial system) has contributed to making South Carolina more violent than ever.
I am not going to sleep on that … no matter who it upsets.
Beatty has also made his branch of government more opaque than ever – often making it impossible to find out which judges are turning violent criminals loose in our communities.
Bottom line? Our state needs a fundamental shift in judicial power. Now. And I am going to keep pushing for such a shift – and calling out those who are abusing their power – no matter who I piss off. And no matter who thinks they can derive some surreptitious side benefit from my efforts.
Harpootlian can play his games. I am going to keep calling out this failed branch of government until those responsible for its failure are held accountable.
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. Oh, he also has LOTS of hats … but has given them up for Lent this year.
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