Prosecutors in the offices of South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson and U.S. attorney Adair Ford Boroughs are at war in the aftermath of federal charges being filed against convicted killer Alex Murdaugh earlier this year.
In fact, sources familiar with the situation say the two chief prosecutors and their lieutenants had a heated exchange after the federal charges were filed – with state prosecutors accusing the feds of “copying” their work.
Murdaugh was hit on Wednesday with a 22-count federal indictment (.pdf) accusing him of wire fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. The indictments were filed before Murdaugh is expected to stand trial on more than 100 counts of state financial crimes.
That means Murdaugh’s attorneys – led by Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin – will likely be able to strike a plea agreement with federal prosecutors prior to the state taking Murdaugh to trial. A date for Murdaugh’s state trial has not been set. Attorneys will hold a status conference on the case before S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman on September 11, 2023 in Beaufort County.
Does it matter which financial crimes are resolved first?
Only if Murdaugh’s state-level murder convictions – and the two life sentences imposed upon him by Newman nearly three months ago – are vacated on appeal. Were that to happen following a federal plea deal, Murdaugh could wind up being transferred to the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) from the S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC) – even if he were convicted on similar financial charges after the fact by the state.
“The fed indictment benefits Murdaugh,” Los Angeles attorney Sara Azari tweeted in a lengthy thread earlier this week. “Being sentenced on a federal indictment is an opportunity to serve time in a BOP facility which obviously is better conditions for Murdaugh and suits the SCDC’s interests.”
“The SCDC does not want him and wants him transferred out of South Carolina,” Azari claimed.
Chatter regarding Murdaugh’s status was amplified last week by the TikTok account of ‘Jumpsuit Pablo,’ a former SCDC inmate who interviewed a “former cellmate” of the convicted killer. According to the inmate, Murdaugh has requested a transfer to a prison facility in Florida.
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SCDC officials declined to comment on Murdaugh’s status behind bars. The 54-year-old disbarred attorney received his permanent placement in the state penal system two months ago after he spent several weeks at Kirkland Correctional Institution, an SCDC intake center located just north of Columbia, S.C.
He is currently housed in an undisclosed location as a part of his “protective custody classification.”
Sources familiar with Murdaugh’s incarceration said an out-of-state transfer is not going to happen while he is still facing more than 100 state-level charges – and now nearly two dozen federal charges.
“He won’t be moved while those charges are pending,” a source familiar with the situation told me. “There’s too much cost and too much risk associated with transferring him, and his attorneys need to access him.”
Murdaugh’s appeal is in the works, but his attorneys told me earlier this week they were still waiting on transcripts from his double homicide trial in Colleton County – which ran from January 23 through March 3 of this year. Once those transcripts arrive – hopefully sometime next month – attorneys say the appeal of his convictions should be submitted within 60-90 days.
A Colleton jury found Murdaugh guilty of brutally murdering his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and his younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh at Moselle – the family’s 1,700-acre hunting property straddling the Salkehatchie River on the border of Colleton and Hampton counties.
State prosecutors issued a blunt statement earlier this week after the federal charges were filed.
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“The financial allegations in this case involve alleged abuse of state lawyer licenses dealing with state court legal actions before state court judges, with alleged misappropriation of state court approved settlements,” the statement noted. “The South Carolina attorney general’s office and the State Law Enforcement Division have occupied a primary and central role in this investigation from inception, and no action by any other entity will have any effect on our goals to ensure significant accountability in state court for any criminal conduct.”
Talk about a stiff-arm …
“This is a textbook political pissing contest,” Azari claimed in her Twitter thread, accusing Wilson of “reneging” on an agreement for the feds to “take the lead on the financial crimes investigation (while) the state would pursue the murder and drug investigation.”
Wilson’s office has denied that allegation.
Alex Murdaugh remains the central figure in the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga. 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 – and past president of the influential S.C. trial lawyers lobby. The “House of Murdaugh” ran the Palmetto Lowcounty like a fiefdom for nearly a century – dispensing justice as it saw fit.
That fiefdom began to collapse in February 2019, however, when Paul Murdaugh allegedly crashed a boat belonging to his father into a piling near the Archer’s Creek Bridge outside of Parris Island, S.C. The crash killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, S.C. – and exposed the Murdaugh family to the white hot glare of the statewide limelight for the first time. It also led to the filing of a high-profile wrongful death lawsuit which threatened to expose Murdaugh’s financial misdeeds.
According to state prosecutors, this “gathering storm” led to Murdaugh’s decision to murder his wife and son.
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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