Alex Murdaugh’s finances will remain frozen and in the hands of the court.
Judge Daniel Hall issued his ruling Thursday afternoon against Murdaugh’s attorneys state Sen. Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, who argued last Friday that if the co-receivership remained in place, it would “open a Pandora’s box” across the state.
As FITSNews founding editor Will Folks wrote after the hearing — which was held in Lexington County — Harpootlian “repeatedly bullied the judge” and claimed that his failure to return control of Murdaugh’s assets would affect thousands of cases.
Harpootlian told the court last week that he planned to file a motion in a separate case to appoint a receiver because he believed the Murdaugh case was setting a precedent as it related to tort law.
“This case is all about the money — and the money is governed by statutes,” Harpootlian said last Friday, repeatedly referring to his intention to exploit a so-called “Murdaugh loophole” to go after the assets of corporations in liability cases.
Murdaugh’s co-receivership was appointed in November 2021 as part of the ”the boat crash case,” a 2019 deadly wreck involving Murdaugh’s now-deceased son, Paul Murdaugh, who was 19 at the time. He was later charged with three felony counts of boating under the influence.
The crash — which killed Hampton County teenager Mallory Beach and injured four others — is seen by many as causing the first crack in the foundation of the 100-year Murdaugh legacy, which has been all but destroyed since the June 2021 murders of Paul and his mother, Maggie.
Allendale attorney Mark Tinsley — who is representing the Beach family, as well two of the other passengers — requested that Murdaugh’s finances be frozen and a receivership appointed after evidence appeared to show that Alex’s assets were being hidden, degraded and squandered.
Shortly before the emergency hearing last fall, photos emerged of Alex Murdaugh’s remaining son, Buster Murdaugh, gambling at a casino in Las Vegas with Alex’s younger brother, John Marvin.
Harpootlian and Griffin also argued that the boat crash case — in which Alex, Buster and John Marvin as the personal representative of Maggie’s estate are co-defendants — would not likely succeed were it to go to trial, therefore rendering the receivership moot.
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To head off that argument, Tinsley filed an affidavit on behalf of boat passenger Morgan Doughty, who was Paul’s former girlfriend, outlining more than two dozen videos in her possession that show Paul drinking underage with the knowledge and permission of Alex, Maggie and Buster, whose license Paul used to purchase alcohol before the crash.
One of the central assertions of the case is that the Murdaugh family’s permissiveness and encouragement of Paul’s drinking — particularly while operating a vehicle or boat — ultimately contributed to the crash.
The Murdaughs’ level of influence and alleged history of interfering in investigations to which they’ve been connected, using their considerable resources in law enforcement and in the legal community, make the receivership a critical instrument of accountability.
The co-receivers are tasked with finding and accounting for the totality of Alex Murdaugh’s assets in an effort to preserve them for his many creditors, which includes a growing line of former clients from whom he allegedly stole millions.
Harpootlian and Griffin claimed the receivership should at the very least be altered to give Murdaugh more access to spending money.
Tinsley argued that Murdaugh could go through the receivership.
“If Alex Murdaugh needs more meat sticks than he is winning in the jail, he can petition the court for another $60,” Tinsley said, referring to purchases Murdaugh has made in jail, as well as Murdaugh’s admission to his son during a phone call from jail that he had won beef sticks by gambling on a football game.
Stunningly, Harpootlian — who is fighting against the further release of Murdaugh’s jailhouse calls — seemed not to understand the reference: “He’s not buying any more meat sticks.”
Tinsley also argued that efforts by the Murdaugh family to pay off a loan taken out by Alex’s late father, Randolph Murdaugh III, are evidence that a receivership is needed in this case.
“I suggest to the court that indicates fraud in and of itself,” Tinsley said. “They were not going to dispute anything claimed by the bank.”
During his testimony before the court, Lay argued against Harpootlian’s claims.
“The case law is there for a receivership,” Lay said. “It’s extraordinarily hyperbolic to suggest the bottom is going to fall out.”
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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