South Carolina circuit court judge Clifton Newman has set September 11, 2023 for the trial of attorney Cory Fleming of Beaufort, S.C. – who is facing multiple charges tied to one of the financial schemes allegedly perpetrated by convicted killer Alex Murdaugh.
Fleming’s trial will be held in Beaufort County and is scheduled to last two weeks.
The case against Fleming will be handled by the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson – whose prosecutors (narrowly) won a conviction of Murdaugh on murder and weapons charges last month. Murdaugh was convicted on March 2, 2023 of killing his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh, on June 7, 2021 at Moselle, the family’s hunting property.
Judge Newman sentenced him to life in prison the following day.
Newman set the date for Fleming’s trial on Friday at a status conference held at the Hampton County courthouse in Hampton, S.C. In fact, tht hearing – which addressed Fleming and several other Murdaugh-related defendants – took place in the shadow of three portraits of the once-powerful Murdaugh family, which ruled the Palmetto Lowcountry like a fiefdom for decades.
Three generations of Murdaughs – including Alex’s late father, Randolph Murdaugh III – held the post of S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor between 1920-2006. Murdaugh himself was a badge-carrying assistant solicitor at the time of his spectacular unraveling in 2021.
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Fleming, 54, appeared at the hearing along with his attorney, Deborah Barbier of Columbia, S.C.
News of Friday’s hearing did not come as a surprise to our readers. Last month, we reported prosecutors were planning to advance the next chapter of this Southern Gothic drama, focusing their attention on more than thirty alleged financial crimes linked to the death of former Murdaugh housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.
We also reported earlier this month that Newman – who retires at the end of the year – was pushing them to start moving the remaining Murdaugh cases on the docket.
Details of the Satterfield case can be found in a sprawling, 44-page indictment dated March 10, 2022. According to that document (.pdf), Murdaugh and Fleming engaged in an elaborate scheme between January 2019 and November 2020 to deprive Satterfield’s family of a multi-million dollar settlement following a fall that resulted in Satterfield’s death.
Satterfield collapsed on the front steps of main house at the Murdaughs’ Moselle property shortly before 9:24 a.m. EST on the morning of Friday, February 2, 2018. She died three weeks later, ostensibly of complications from her fall. Alex Murdaugh convinced insurance investigators that Satterfield was tripped by the family’s dogs – thus allowing him to fraudulently steer a multi-million dollar insurance settlement away from its intended recipients and into his own pockets.
Is that really what happened, though? Or did Murdaugh lie to insurance investigators the same way he lied to a Colleton County jury earlier this year?
Murdaugh is facing twelve (12) criminal counts related to the alleged Satterfield scheme including breach of trust, money laundering, computer crimes and obtaining property by false pretenses. Fleming is facing eighteen (18) similar criminal counts related to the scheme.
Both Murdaugh and Fleming are also facing a separate criminal conspiracy charge.
Fleming is also facing charges in connection with the case of Hakeem Pinckney, a deaf football star who was paralyzed in a catastrophic car wreck in 2009. Pinckney died mysteriously two years later. Murdaugh, Fleming and convicted fraudster Russell Laffitte are accused of fleecing his family out of a multi-million dollar settlement.
If convicted on all of the charges, Fleming could face a maximum of 200 years behind bars.
Laffitte – who is currently appealing his recent federal conviction on six fraud charges – also appeared at the status conference with his new attorney Todd Rutherford in tow. Rutherford, readers will recall, is currently at the epicenter of a massive judicial corruption scandal involving retired S.C. circuit court judge Casey Manning.
Laffitte is facing numerous state charges – but his attorneys were not ready to proceed at Friday’s hearing, drawing Newman’s ire. Rather than set a trial date for Laffitte, Newman scheduled another status conference in the case for August of this year.
Newman did set trial dates for several other Murdaugh-related defendants, though.
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Spencer Roberts, 35, of Walterboro, S.C. will stand trial in Colleton County beginning on December 18, 2023. He is facing four charges: Insurance fraud, obtaining property by false pretenses, money laundering and a computer crime involving a value of more than $10,000.
Jerry K. Rivers, 40, of Walterboro, S.C. will also stand trial in Colleton County on August 28, 2023 on one count of obstruction of justice for allegedly committing “an act which prevents, obstructs, impedes, or hinders the administration of justice.”
Rivers was accused of taking “an item of evidentiary value that had been seized pursuant to (a) search warrant” on August 10, 2022 and doing so “without permission or acknowledgement from law enforcement,” according to the indictment.
The item? A “cellular phone belonging to another individual who had been arrested.”
According to prosecutors, Roberts and Rivers were “downstream beneficiaries” of Murdaugh’s alleged theft.
As for Murdaugh’s remaining trials, Newman indicated he hoped to have them tried in October of this year. The convicted killer is still staring down 99 counts of alleged financial crimes handed down by the South Carolina statewide grand jury and three local charges stemming from a September 2021 roadside shooting incident, the event that initiated his public unraveling.
His co-conspirator in the roadside shooting – Curtis “Eddie” Smith – will also stand trial at some point in the not-too-distant future, although Newman declined to set a trial date for Smith on Friday given the defendant’s ongoing health issues.
Smith stands accused of four counts of money laundering, three counts of forgery, one count of conspiracy, one count of methamphetamine trafficking, one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance and one count of simple possession of marijuana. He is also facing fraud and weapons charges tied to the roadside shooting on Old Salkehatchie Road – which took place almost three months after the graphic murders of Murdaugh’s wife and son.
While we keep tabs on all of these defendants and the various charges they are facing, it is important to bear in mind even more charges could be forthcoming – against Murdaugh and potentially other defendants. As this news outlet reported last month, a statewide grand jury is continuing to investigate what remains of this erstwhile empire.
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.
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