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The Chess Move Behind Alex Murdaugh’s Latest Court Filing

Hint: It’s not about the civil cases …

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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.”

Based on those two “facts,” Murdaugh and his alleged co-conspirator Corey Fleming were able to steal millions of dollars from Murdaugh’s insurance companies, Lloyd’s of London and Nautilus.

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.

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Now, Murdaugh is belatedly admitting he lied about the dogs tripping Satterfield – and seeking to vacate his confession of judgment.

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)

Prosecutor Creighton Waters announces the prosecution rests during Alex Murdaugh’s trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Friday, February 17, 2023. Joshua Boucher/The State/Pool

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?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks on phone
Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

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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9 comments

Greenway Cyclist Top fan May 17, 2023 at 10:09 am

I have believed for some time that Eric Bland will one day regret his podcast association. As a longtime listener, it just became too much with the “all about me” comments, the bias of opinion while calling themselves journalists and selecting to discuss only the positive attributes of those they support. The fact alone that they admitted to putting the Chief Justice’s telephone number online should be enough for him to see this is not what he, Ronnie and Renee have worked for all these years. This is his reputation and profession, not theirs. I am in full support of his representation of the Satterfield family and I hope he will proceed as an attorney and take precautions as a podcaster. He could have his own podcast with a professional host.

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tomfunderburk Top fan May 17, 2023 at 10:54 am

“. . . a prominent Democratic attorney” ?!

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SubZeroIQ May 17, 2023 at 12:19 pm

FITS probably means Pete Strom, the lawyer who represents him pro bono or pro quo.

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SubZeroIQ May 17, 2023 at 11:17 am

I’ll start with a very “bland” comment and hope you run immediately after fact-checking it as good journalists do.
The caption under Creighton Waters’ photo is incorrect in that the State did NOT rest on 17 February 2023 but few days later.
Arguments were had on 1 and 2 March 2023; the jury got the case in the afternoon of 2 March 2023 and returned the guilty verdicts within three hours of beginning deliberations; and the verdicts were announced that afternoon.
Sentencing was in the morning of 3 March 2023 after neither side presented witnesses for sentencing purposes; but Alex Murdaugh (“AM”) himself addressed the court before sentence was pronounced.
I have seen that photo of Creighton Waters with the caption giving the incorrect date of the state resting on other outlets; and I regret that you copied it as is.
Having said that, please review and approve my coming posts, God willing, promptly because I have much that is substantive to say.
Thanks!

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SubZeroIQ May 17, 2023 at 12:41 pm

The most troubling aspect of this whole story is Eric Bland’s and Mark Tinsley’s involvement in the criminal double-murder trial against Alex Murdaugh (“AM”).
Another very troubling aspect is that Eric Bland appears to be a talented lawyer who, at one point in his career, went against powerful law firms no other lawyer would have dared antagonize. But at a later point, the difference between courage and irresponsibility became entirely lost to Eric Bland; and that’s being charitable him. Perhaps for him it is not that “discretion is the better part of valor” but that discretion is the enemy of name recognition and that no publicity is bad publicity.
Eric Bland did not just fill social media with incorrect statements about the Satterfield and Stephen Smith cases; he also filled social media with braggadocio about how he spent two hours every morning during AM’s double-murder trial “strategizing” with the prosecution.
That alone, in my free-from-false-humility opinion, requires reversal of AM’s double murder convictions and double use of firearms convictions.
Prosecutors should EARN and keep the public’s CONFIDENCE that they prosecute ONLY to fight crime. When there is the slightest hint that the prosecutor is involved in giving a separate private party unfair advantages in ongoing civil litigation, the prosecutor loses ALL PUBLIC CONFIDENCE.
Prosecutors are held to be officers of the courts and should maintain the neutrality (regarding separate civil litigation) expected of judges.
How would it have been if HYPOTHETICALLY Eric Bland hat “strategized” with Judge Clifton Newman every morning on how to manage AM’s double-murder trial?
I hope no one plays dumb about what I am saying here.

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The Colonel Top fan May 17, 2023 at 1:20 pm

Bland et al’s deals were not made with the insurer(s), they were made with the “Murdawk periphery”. Nautalis and LLoyds can pound sand – they have to go after the alleged payees of the original settlement (PiMPED et al). The peripheral players all agreed to the settlements and agreed that “nothing more will ever be said” or legal words to that effect.

All this tempest in the teapot falderal is just a determined effort by “Harpo and Jimbo Inc.” to muddy the waters for “Elick”. There’s nothing tricky about the prosecution of the financial crimes at all – DA “Elick” admitted to many of his crimes in open court, impeached himself in many others and significant portions of the rest were made part of the public record.

The only way “Elick” gets out of jail except horizontally is if he fires “Jimbob and Harpy”, hires Todd Rutherford and somehow gets Judge Manning seated again to hear the case.

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SubZeroIQ May 17, 2023 at 1:58 pm

It was Nautilus, not Alex Murdaugh (“AM”) or his former law firm (“PMPED”), who sued in federal court. The co-receivers intervened or tried to and tried to tell AM what to do in that federal lawsuit. Federal Judge Gergel ruled correctly that the suit is in personum, not in rem; therefore, the co-receivers cannot stop it.
What is coming out it the very ugly side (perhaps the only side) of the personal injury litigation business. Neither AM nor Eric Bland (“EB”) has any real litigation skills. All they can do and have been doing is blackmailing the opponent into paying.
AM blackmailed Nautilus and Lloyds of London into paying under threat of bringing a bad-faith refusal-to-settle claim against them; and EB blackmailed Bank of America, Chad Westendorf, and PMPED into paying EB for having let AM steal from Nautilus and Lloyds of London, NOT from the Satterfields.
If you listened carefully, Chris Wilson, who cried only for his missing $200K, not for two dead people, had with AM gotten the huge settlement in the Mack Truck case by blackmailing Mack Truck about the previous recalls they did not enforce or something.
Chris Wilson, AM, EB, Mark Tinsley, and all those other ambulance chasers did NOTHING and will do NOTHING to protect the public from defective trucks or drunk piloting. In fact, they want more tragedies to happen so they can enrich themselves off them.
And you suffers? The insurance premium payers whom the State makes buy insurance but forgets to ask the insurance companies why the premiums are so high.
The premiums are so high because much hanky-panky goes on between the insurance adjustors and the lawyers on both sides of a personal injury claim.
The fleecing of ordinary people by high insurance premiums needs to be looked at.
Reform should start by setting aside part of EVERY personal injury recovery for prevention of future injuries in a scientific way.

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stephen henry Top fan May 18, 2023 at 3:49 am

Cannot believe you started your article with a statement that is TOTALLY conjecture … that Gloria Satterfield “fainted” on the Moselle steps. Maybe she did faint … or maybe she slipped … or maybe she had a stroke … or maybe she was pushed by AM. But NOBODY knows what really happened. That is why SLED should be investigating the cause of her death.

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Lee Granade May 22, 2023 at 10:37 pm

There is a TON that SLED should investigate, promises to investigate, and/or is ordered to investigate, but does NOTHING, or plays stupid, or rubber stamps a fabricated erroneous report.

My child ran out of a house fire on HHI on 1.19.20. No policies or procedures were followed, no referral, investigation, just nothing. The home belonged – in part – to the USC roommate of the county attorney who was in financial peril. Arson for insurance nearly killed my child… the only thing SLED has done in my case is issue a cease & desist against me bc I ask about it too often and relay a couple of threats via mutual friends.

There’s a reason Dick & Jim didn’t object to one of the primary LEO’s brothers on the stand… LE were in the bag – or supposed to be – IM & experience. They take care of their own…

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