There’s been a ton of discussion on Reddit and in social media lately about the escalating legal battle between convicted killer Alex Murdaugh‘s attorneys – Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin – and attorneys/ podcasters Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter, who represent the family of former Murdaugh housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.
Satterfield fainted and collapsed on the front stairs of the Murdaugh hunting estate – known locally as Moselle – on the morning of February 2, 2018, sustaining multiple serious injuries. She died three-and-a-half weeks later.
In an effort to pull off an elaborate insurance scam, Murdaugh convinced insurance investigators of two key points: 1) That Satterfield’s fall was caused by his family dogs, and 2) That Satterfield was at his home that morning not to work, but to pick up a check from another Murdaugh family member.
These assertions were essential to establishing 1) That Murdaugh was negligent in connection with Satterfield’s death, and 2) That Satterfield’s death did not stem from a “workplace accident.”
This scam was later exposed, and Murdaugh – who confessed judgement to Satterfield’s heirs in the amount of $4.3 million – was criminally charged for his fraudulent acts. So was Fleming. Additionally, Bland and Richter obtained civil settlements totaling at least $7.5 million from other parties who were suspected to have potential liability in connection with this incident.
This has raised questions about whether the settlements won by Bland and Richter are valid – or whether the millions of dollars they won is potentially subject to recoupment.
As part of that controversy, Bland is having to address this news outlet’s October 2021 report which revealed he was “worried about his clients having to (cough back up) the money … which they would have to do if the claim was fabricated from the start.”
Which it clearly was …
Even worse for Bland? He has been accused of misconduct in connection with the $4.3 million confession of judgment obtained from Murdaugh, which according to Harpootlian and Griffin was an “enticement” to keep them from roasting their client at an upcoming bond hearing.
Quid pro quo … a.k.a. precisely the same sort of good ol’ boy, backdoor deal-making Bland and his “Justice League” have made hundreds of thousands of dollars pretending to oppose.
Those developments have prompted Bland and Richter to, well …
To be clear: This news outlet has never opined that the settlements reached by Bland and Richter in the Satterfield case are invalid. A court may eventually conclude that they are, but no one here is saying that. Frankly, I think putting this toothpaste back into the tube will be next-to-impossible.
Unless there is clear and compelling evidence of coercion, fraud, intimidation or some other malfeasance on the part of Bland and/or Richter, I suspect the settlements and the confession of judgment in this case will stand.
Similarly, the misconduct allegations against Bland are just that … allegations.
He has the right to defend himself in the court of law and in the court of public opinion – which reminds me, this media outlet’s microphone is always available to him in the event he wishes to address our audience.
As I have consistently noted, though, Bland is in a box. Trapped in a definitional “have cake, eat cake” situation. On the one hand, he continues to hold out Murdaugh as a habitual and serial liar … which, let’s be honest, we don’t need Eric Bland to confirm. On the other hand, he would have us suspend disbelief and presume the one and only time Murdaugh told the truth was in recalling the moments after Satterfield fell – which a “truth” which netted Bland and Richter millions of dollars.
Bland cannot have it both ways – especially given the naked self-interest of the isolated “truth” he is embracing.
Meanwhile, his ongoing insistence (and the insistence of his allies) that anyone challenging him is somehow “attacking the Satterfields” is ridiculous.
Here’s the thing, though: None of this is about these civil settlements. Nor is any of it about Murdaugh’s confession of judgment in the Satterfield case.
What is it about? The upcoming financial trials …
(Click to view)
Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters is relying heavily on Bland and Richter to help him make his case against Murdaugh and Fleming this fall. If their credibility is torpedoed – or if they are exposed as frauds – the state’s case gets trickier.
Not impossible, obviously … but trickier.
Yesterday evening, a prominent Democratic attorney suggested to me that Harpootlian and Griffin have “no self-interested reason to vacate the confession of judgment.”
“They’re legitimately looking out for the other victims to be compensated from the remaining funds,” the attorney told me.
I don’t necessarily buy that … but I do believe Harpootlian and Griffin are playing chess in this filing, angling for positioning in the upcoming criminal trials as opposed to any debate over these settlement funds.
In Alex Murdaugh’s six-week double homicide trial, prosecutors toyed with the idea of putting Murdaugh’s alleged drug dealer/ check casher Curtis “Eddie” Smith on the stand. In fact, Smith cooperated with prosecutors to the point they later endorsed him having his bond reinstated – freeing him from a Midlands-area detention center after eight months behind bars.
Ultimately, though, they opted against putting Smith on the stand … believing such a move to be too risky given potential lines of inquiry Harpootlian and Griffin may have pursued against him on cross-examination.
Could they be forced into the same position vis-à-vis Bland as it relates to the upcoming financial crimes trials?
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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