As prosecutors at the state and federal level spar over the remaining criminal charges pending against convicted killer Alex Murdaugh, attorneys for the family of Gloria Satterfield – Murdaugh’s late housekeeper – have filed a bizarre motion in one of the many Murdaugh-related civil cases.
Laden with odd golfing references, the pleading – submitted this week by attorneys Eric Bland, Ronnie Richter and Scott Mongillo – reads more like a snarky podcast script than a viable legal brief seeking to address recent chess moves made by Murdaugh’s lawyers, Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin.
“Team Murdaugh have stumbled late on the judicial first tee with a small bucket of balls and with the apparent attempt to fire shots until they finally hit the fairway,” the motion (.pdf) stated, vowing to “expose the many whiffs, slices, tops, blocks, chunks, hooks and duffs that have so needlessly wasted this court’s time.”
Whiffs? Slices? Tops?
I’m sorry … is this a legal argument? Or an advertorial for a “set of better clubs?” You know, the “kind with tiny nubs?” Just so my irons aren’t always “flying off the back-swing?”
“Obviously, Murdaugh is not a golfer,” the motion continued. “Neither are his lawyers. There are no mulligans. Like a spoiled child, (Murdaugh’s) motion is overindulged and undisciplined.”
Undisciplined? You mean … like a court filing implying one’s rival attorneys have small testicles?
Let’s dispense with all the petty ‘Mean Girls’ sniping and get to the facts of the case, shall we? To recap: Satterfield 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 at a hospital in North Charleston, S.C.
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’s dogs, and 2) That Satterfield was at his home that morning not to come to work, but to pick up a check from another Murdaugh family member.
These assertions – neither of which were ever proved – were essential to establishing 1) That Murdaugh was legally 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, Beaufort, S.C. attorney Cory Fleming, were able to steal millions of dollars from Murdaugh’s insurance companies, Lloyd’s of London and Nautilus.
This scam was later exposed, however, and Murdaugh – who confessed judgement to Satterfield’s heirs in the amount of $4.3 million – was criminally charged for his fraudulent acts (both at the state and federal level). So was Fleming. Additionally, Bland, Richter and Mongillo have 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. Bland and his fellow attorneys are not only pushing back against those efforts, but they claim they are entitled to sanctions against Harpootlian and Griffin for “the further victimization of the Satterfield family.” Specifically, they are seeking “reasonable costs and attorney’s fees” along with a “reasonable fine to be paid to the court” and a “reasonable monetary penalty to the party or parties defending against (their) frivolous action.”
Okay … but is any of that actually “reasonable” under the circumstances, though? What precise “victimization” do Bland, Richter and Mongillo believe entitles them to another Murdaugh-related pay day?
According to their pleading, Harpootlian and Griffin have facilitated the “depravity of mind and sheer balderdash” of Murdaugh – who is continuing to make a mockery “of his prior profession and the administration of judgment itself.”
That may be true … but a fundamental problem remains for the Satterfield lawyers. After acknowledging in their brief that Murdaugh has “manufactured so many mistruths, it becomes difficult to keep it all straight,” they continue to insist the serial liar told the truth on the one occasion that benefited them to the tune of millions of dollars.
In other words, the truth never once escaped Alex Murdaugh’s lips … except for that time it made Bland, Richter and Mongillo boatloads of money.
Despite the self-serving nature of their “advocacy,” Bland, Richter and Mongillo do not appear to be in any danger of losing the loot they made off this case. To my knowledge, no one has credibly claimed the Satterfield case were invalid. Courts may eventually conclude they were, but no one here is saying that.
“Frankly, I think putting this toothpaste back into the tube will be next-to-impossible,” I noted last month.
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Ironically, it was Bland who 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,” according to our October 2021 report.
Again, though, no one has made anything resembling a credible argument for recoupment of any of those settlement funds … at least not yet.
The drama does, however, call into question the ability of state prosecutors to present Bland as anything resembling a credible witness in any upcoming criminal trials … which I believe was the point of all the recent “Team Murdaugh” maneuvering. In fact, the voluminous motion filed this week – while heavy on golf metaphors – was noticeably light in responding to Harpootlian and Griffin’s allegation that Bland leveraged Murdaugh’s confession of judgment as an “enticement” to keep them from roasting their client at an upcoming bond hearing.
Specifically, Harpootlian and Griffin accused Bland of engaging “in a concerted campaign of prejudicial and extrajudicial statements, as well as inflammatory rhetoric in the courtroom when Mr. Murdaugh sought bail, and then offered to stop when Mr. Murdaugh again sought bail if he would simply confess judgment for a ’symbolic’ amount of ‘monopoly money.’”
And yes, they are seeking sanctions, too …
Bottom line? In both the criminal and civil arenas, the Murdaugh saga continues to devolve. What was once a genuine pursuit of truth and justice has – sadly, but predictably – become a prosecutorial pissing contest on the criminal side and a craven hustle by less-than-principled members of the plaintiffs’ bar on the civil side.
It’s no longer about truth. Nor justice for victims. It’s about ego ... and money.
No wonder fewer and fewer people are tuning into this show?
THE FILING …
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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