‘Murdaugh Murders’ Saga: Federal Judge To Entertain Debate Over Initial Russell Laffitte Recording

Prosecutors, defense attorneys invited to submit memos …

Exactly how wide (and how deep) does the financial crimes component of the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga really go? We don’t know … nor, apparently, are we sure whether federal prosecutors are serious about plumbing those depths.

What do we know? A federal judge is set to receive motions this week on whether the first of “multiple recordings” made by one of the alleged co-conspirators in this component of the still-unfolding Southern Gothic drama will be admitted as evidence in his upcoming trial.

Or … whether the file will be shielded from public disclosure by a bank’s claims of attorney-client privilege.

The fate of this recording (and others like it) matters a great deal as the audio could shed significant light on the extent of a criminal network linked to accused killer/ disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh – a network which may have defrauded dozens of victims out of millions of dollars dating back decades.

Attorneys for Palmetto State Bank (PSB) – which is alleged to have been a key cog in Murdaugh’s crumbling criminal empire – are seeking to block the publication of the initial recording made by Russell Laffitte, the bank’s former chief executive officer.

According to our sources, the initial recording involved a discussion about a $680,000 payment from PSB to the Hampton, S.C.-based law firm formerly known as Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick, P.A. (PMPED). That payment was made in October of 2021 – not long after Murdaugh allegedly attempted suicide by hiring one of his check cashers, Curtis “Eddie” Smith, to shoot him in the head in a bizarre roadside incident that attracted international headlines.

Both Smith and Murdaugh were charged with fraud in connection with that case …

Already a household name to those following this saga, Smith was pushed to the center of the storm on Friday afternoon after a bombshell motion filed by Murdaugh’s attorneys – state senator Dick Harpootlian and Columbia, S.C. attorney Jim Griffin – alleged that he failed a polygraph examination related to questions about the June 2021 double homicide at the heart of this story.

For our complete coverage of that motion, click here.

While the double homicide case was turned on its ear by Harpootlian and Griffin’s filing, the financial crimes case was similarly upended when Laffitte’s attorneys – former U.S. attorney Bart Daniel and former federal prosecutor Matt Austin – filed a motion late last month demanding “the production of all reports and associated documents related to any witnesses in the government’s investigation (against Laffitte) containing information or allegations of crimes or acts of moral turpitude, including fraud.”

That motion hinted at the existence of a broader conspiracy – which Laffitte’s recordings purport to prove.

In fact, sources familiar with the initial recording have told this news outlet “multiple PSB leaders are rumored to be implicated in some of the same criminal conduct of which Laffitte stands accused.”

According a notice posted online, U.S. district court judge Richard Gergel said his court was “in receipt of a letter from counsel for Palmetto State Bank concerning the bank’s claim of attorney client privilege” related to the recording.

That letter was sent by Trenholm Walker, who is representing the bank.

Of interest? Walker was reportedly accompanied by Charleston, S.C. attorney Dawes Cook – one of the top lawyers in the Palmetto State – during an unpublicized emergency hearing held before Gergel on October 6, 2022. One of Cook’s specialities? Representing attorneys accused of malpractice.

Gergel’s notice invited Laffitte’s lawyers – and prosecutors in the office of U.S. attorney Adair Ford Boroughs – to “file a response” to Walker’s letter on or before Tuesday, October 18, 2022 “if they wish.”

It is not immediately clear whether either side will weigh in on the matter, but sources close to the prosecution told me they did not expect the government to submit a response.

Just days after our story about the first audio recording was published, a new civil lawsuit filed in Hampton County, S.C. named Alex Murdaugh, PMPED and two of Murdaugh’s former law partners, Ronnie Crosby and William F. Barnes III, as co-defendants.

Laffitte and PSB are also listed as defendants in that lawsuit, which accused Murdaugh and his former law partners of having “aided and abetted Laffitte and (PSB) in the breach of their fiduciary duties” related to a 2013 civil settlement.



As I noted in my coverage of that lawsuit, its claims are “tracking along the very same lines” as the broader conspiracy hinted at by Laffitte.

As of this writing, Laffitte remains the only person charged at the federal level in connection with the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga – a still unspooling web of alleged criminality tied to Murdaugh, the scion of a powerful South Carolina family which for decades enjoyed near dictatorial control of a five-county region in the Palmetto Lowcountry.

The 51-year-old Hampton, S.C. native was fired from his position as PSB chief executive officer back in January. Three months later, he was indicted by state prosecutors on multiple criminal conspiracy charges tied to his alleged role in the various Murdaugh-related fleecings. In late July, Laffitte was hit with a five-count federal indictment alleging bank fraud, wire fraud, misapplication of bank funds and conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud.

Murdaugh has not been charged at the federal level, but at the state level he is currently facing 90 individual counts of alleged criminal activity involving “schemes to defraud victims” of nearly $9 million.



(Via: FITSNews)

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. And yes, he has many hats – including that Chicago Blackhawks’ lid pictured above.



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