The central question in the Mallory Beach civil conspiracy case has been this: How did a New York City journalist get her hands on confidential court materials that included photos of Beach’s dead body, as well as video produced and owned by the Beach family?
There are two potential answers here: Either Georgia-based convenience store mogul Greg Parker’s team is responsible for the multimedia file making its way to reporter Vicky Ward — of the Jeffrey Epstein “Vicky Wards” — or the Beach family’s legal team is responsible for it being given to Vicky Ward.
Everyone involved vehemently denies everything, naturally, but did everyone notice my use of the phrase “to Vicky Ward?”
Ward is the person who had these materials in her possession. She is the reason these materials, to include gruesome photos of Beach’s body, appeared in a three-minute “sizzle reel” for her “Murdaugh Murders” documentary last winter. She even apparently told the Beaches’ lawyer she paid someone from Parker’s team for those materials.
Ward did that (that last part, allegedly).
And yet here we are …
Last week Parker’s sometimes slobbering and misguided legal team subpoenaed Verizon for the phone and text message records of Beach family attorneys Mark Tinsley and Tabor Vaux, and political operative Wesley Donehue, whose marketing company was hired by Parker in the aftermath of the 2019 boat crash that killed Beach. That case involved the now internationally infamous Murdaugh family (specifically, a 19-year-old Paul who used his much taller and heavier brother’s photo ID to purchase alcohol from Parker’s convenient store the night of the crash).
Parker’s team was very specific in the information they sought from Tinsley’s, Vaux’s and Donehue’s records.
They wanted any calls or texts these three men might have exchanged with each other or with Sara Capelli, a Charleston-based private investigator hired by Parker to follow the Murdaugh boys around prior to Paul’s June 2021 murder.
They also wanted any calls or texts that might have been exchanged with me (FITSNews executive editor Liz Farrell), FITSNews news director Mandy Matney and FITSNews founding editor Will Folks.
Notice how none of those names is pronounced “Vicky Ward?”
So, as Parker defends himself and his associates — which includes two of his attorneys and two other private investigators — against allegations that they leaked this information in an attempt to weaken the resolve of the Beach family in pursuing their wrongful death claim against him, he’s going after three reporters who have regularly called him out for his legal team’s bullying tactics and blunders …
… rather than the reporter who obtained the materials in question.
In one of the sickest twists of this case, it would seem as though Parker is saying the Beaches are responsible for their own trauma.
That it’s their fault Mallory was taken from them …
That it’s their fault a private video and horrifying photos of their daughter’s lifeless body were given to Ward to use as artwork for a Murdaugh Murders story …
In the bottomless pit of craven acts revealed over the past year in the Murdaugh saga, this one has to be the one that finally hits the floor.
Now, the Verizon subpoenas present an interesting conundrum for journalists — something The State newspaper failed to note in its fluffer-nutter of a story this past weekend. That story conflated the very targeted Verizon subpoena with a previous, much more broad (and absurd) subpoena from Parker’s team in May that basically asked Tinsley et. al. to turn over their own records of all their communications with anyone at any publication, TV station, production company involving the Murdaugh story etc. from the date of the boat crash until now (see below).
You’ll probably notice what’s not on that list: “BlackFin” (the production company associated with Ward’s Murdaugh project), “Investigation Discovery” (the channel that aired Ward’s three-episode documentary this past June) or GreggRoman.com (more on this in a second).
They did, however, include Ward in this subpoena (see below). So hallelujah, that’s something …
In early June, Tinsley objected to this subpoena, telling Parker’s attorneys that among the many reasons he’s opposed is that “there is no connection between the communications of the Subpoenaed Parties to the issues at hand … and the Subpoenaed Parties are not a party to this litigation. As such, the requests seek to burden the Subpoenaed Parties for no particular reason other than to unduly burden and harass the Subpoenaed parties. This type of discovery abuse is plainly prohibited (by the Rules of Professional Conduct …”
Parker’s team had to find a workaround … and this is when the Verizon subpoena entered the arena.
Now, FITSNews was not subpoenaed in this case – nor did Parker’s legal team inform us that our numbers were submitted to Verizon. We are not compelled to reveal anything. We are NOT a party to this case. Our sources remain, as they have always been, mightily protected.
Greg Parker certainly has his faults, but he’s smart enough to know we will not – and do not – give up our sources for any reason (particularly not his reasons) and further, Will Folks has made it clear taking on FITSNews directly would not bode well for Parker.
However, that hasn’t stopped Parker’s team from searching for a backdoor to the information he apparently really wanted, which is our information.
I am not sure.
Maybe retaliation? Or maybe something else?
We know the legal team thinks Tinsley showed or shared the Beaches’ mediation video with FITSNews, which he did not.
They think this because Matney is Facebook friends with Tinsley — as am I — and in 2020, when she asked Tinsley for a quote from Renee Beach, the quote she was given was apparently something Renee also said in a confidential video.
To be clear: FITSNews has never published any of the confidential court materials in question.
Oddly, though, Parker’s later sought permission from the court to use some of these confidential materials outside of the context of mediation but withdrew its motion around the time the breach with Ward was revealed.
That brings us to an important question: Why is it okay for high-priced attorneys to secretly subpoena for communications with journalists who have nothing to do with the case at hand? Why would anyone in this case defend that or allow that?
Of course, Tinsley — in seeking to prove Parker’s team is the one who leaked the materials — was the first to subpoena a reporter in this.
But Ward isn’t just a journalist doing her job. She is literally a reason the case exists in the first place. According to Tinsley, in her pursuit of getting him on camera last fall, Ward admitted to him and his co-counsel where she had gotten the information that previously only his team and Parker’s had.
If this is true, then Ward opened that door.
Not to complicate matters, but another name and number not on Parker’s subpoena list was that of Gregg Roman, a Middle East policy expert from Philadelphia who wrote a very long one-off blog about the Murdaugh case last summer and, more strangely, appeared in and helped produce Ward’s documentary.
Roman’s involvement has always been a bit of a puzzler. His blog entry popped up out of nowhere on social media and was furiously shared with followers of murder case who were starving for information about the Murdaughs last year
Roman has portrayed himself as a man who was vacationing on Hilton Head Island in June 2020 when he just so happened upon the Murdaugh story … which to outsiders should have appeared this way: a year and a half earlier, a random rich boy and his friends got into a boat crash in a location 45 minutes away from Hilton Head and that boy’s family are from a rural area that is nearly two hours away from Hilton Head. The case was on hold because of COVID, and news stories about it had cooled to a very small trickle — in 2020, FITSNews had only published five Murdaugh-related stories by the time Roman arrived.
Here’s the more weird part: Roman’s blog — which could be characterized as aggressively anti-Paul Murdaugh — included a ton of information about the case that had never been released to the public.
Not even to journalists who have reported in the Lowcountry for twenty years.
Like I said, it was a real puzzler.
But then …
When Ward’s documentary aired two months ago, there was the mysterious Gregg Roman!
And then another puzzling thing happened — a video I had never seen before of an older-looking, more bedraggled Paul Murdaugh appeared on the screen.
This is not the Paul who appeared in the many videos I’ve seen of him drinking throughout the years, but rather a more weathered Paul — the Paul that several sources had told us he had become in the months leading up to his death.
On Monday morning, I asked Tinsley about Roman … and mentioned this curious video.
Unexpectedly, I received a (long) statement in response.
And the plot thickened once again.
To save some future subpoena trees, here’s the statement in its entirety as provided to FITSNews:
“Neither the Beach family nor anyone associated with them, including their lawyers, provided Vicky Ward with the mediation presentation video, any photographs of Mallory Beach or her dead body, any Snapchat video, or any exhibits to any deposition taken in the boat crash case. Nonetheless, with the exception of the mediation presentation video, those things are used in the Discovery ID documentary produced by Vicky Ward and Gregg Roman. The video referred to as an ‘original cellphone video in the documentary was not prepared by me; rather it was taken by Greg Parker’s private investigator, Sara Capelli in March of 2021. That video, Greg Parker and his lawyers argue is his confidential work product.
“Furthermore, I do not believe that the materials mentioned above, materials that were in fact used in the documentary, namely the Snapchat videos, the photograph of Paul Murdaugh strapped to a gurney which was marked as an exhibit in one of the emergency room physician’s depositions, or the video of Paul Murdaugh drinking, have ever been made publicly available.
“Today I served discovery requests on Vicky Ward that will establish she was not provided any of these materials by me or the Beach family.
“I believe that the reason the confidential mediation video was not shown in the actual documentary, like it was in Vicky Ward’s “sizzle reel” is because we sent cease and desist letters to all of the companies involved in the production of the documentary threatening suit if that copyrighted material was used. The video is in fact copyrighted.
“If you have any more questions or need any further clarification, please let me know.”
As punishment for the Beaches’ grief, for their audacity in asking that a convenience store be held accountable for its sale of alcohol to minors and for wanting answers about how their daughter’s death scene photos ended up in media’s hands, Parker’s legal team is also cruelly trying to have the one person they trust in all of this — Mark Tinsley (of the long statement Mark Tinsleys) — removed from both the boat crash and civil conspiracy cases.
They say Tinsley’s access to information in the conspiracy case now disqualifies him from litigating the boat crash case. And in the conspiracy case, they say his alleged conversation with Ward now makes him a witness in his own case.
They are clearly worried.
Whatever information is contained in the so-called “knife-fighter” case … highly doubt it incriminates Parker’s Kitchen in the boat crash case. Was Parker’s legal team paying Donehue to investigate their corporate practices and policies? Doubtful.
And Tinsley’s testimony shouldn’t even be necessary because you know what’s also a witness?
It seems like that’s the easy answer to all of this. Maybe Parker’s lawyers ought to join Tinsley in his efforts to find out who did this and seek the metadata on the files Vicky Ward received.
Ostensibly, it would offer a nice healthy exoneration to the innocent party.
Or is that too direct a route for them?
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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