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Crime & Courts

Becky Hill Email Dump: A Look Inside Embattled Clerk Of Court’s Office

Colleton County clerk used taxpayer time, resources to publish controversial book about Alex Murdaugh’s trial …

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Becky Hill – the embattled South Carolina clerk of court whose alleged tampering with a Colleton County jury has threatened the outcome of the Palmetto State’s ‘Trial of the Century’ – is facing fresh scrutiny heading into the Christmas holidays after county officials released hundreds of emails from her taxpayer-funded account.

The emails – obtained by this media outlet under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – show Hill habitually used government resources to develop, promote and sell copies of her book, Behind the Doors of Justice. They also provided a window into Hill’s interactions with her co-authors, fellow government officials and members of the media before, during and after the double homicide trial of convicted killer Alex Murdaugh.

To recap: Hill’s office oversaw Murdaugh’s six-week double murder trial earlier this year – an event which has been referred to as the ‘Trial of the Century’ in the Palmetto State. Murdaugh, 55, a disbarred attorney and confessed fraudster from Hampton, S.C., was found guilty of the graphic 2021 murders of his wife – 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh – and younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh.

Jurors deliberated for less than three hours before handing down their verdicts.

Hill was the one who announced Murdaugh’s guilty verdicts to a waiting world on the evening of March 2, 2023. The following day, S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman handed down a pair of life sentences in the case.

Now, those verdicts are potentially in jeopardy as Hill has found herself at the center of a metastasizing scandal.

Of note: Colleton County did not provide all of Hill’s emails sought by FOIA. So far, the files we have obtained (.pdf) are limited to emails sent by Hill (although they include threads of conversations). We are still awaiting copies of other emails received by Hill – as well as a full inventory of attachments. Also, it is clear county officials have withheld certain emails deemed relevant to the various pending investigations swirling around Hill and her son, former Colleton County information technology director Jeffrey “Colt” Hill.

According to our sources, all of Hill’s emails have been provided – or are in the process of being provided – to state ethics and criminal investigators.

Jeffrey Hill was arrested last month by agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) for allegedly wiretapping another county employee at his mother’s behest. He has been charged with “willfully and feloniously intercepting electronic phone communication.”

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As for Hill, she is staring down a pair of S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC) investigations. One is focused on allegations that she “unethically and potentially unlawfully” used her office to enrich herself by obtaining and releasing confidential information during Murdaugh’s trial – some of which appeared in her book. A second investigation is focused on claims that Hill misappropriated public funds from multiple accounts under her purview– and then allegedly misrepresented those misappropriations to county officials.

SLED is also investigating the jury tampering allegations against Hill, which will be heard at some point in the new year by recently appointed former S.C. chief justice Jean Hoefer Toal – who was tapped earlier this week with handling the case after S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman recused himself given his status as a potential fact witness to the allegations.

Both of Hill’s ethics cases – and the wiretapping charge against her son – have been referred to the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson. Wilson’s office prosecuted Murdaugh for the murders of his wife and younger son – and for his myriad financial crimes. In addition to deciding whether to refer the cases to a statewide grand jury – as he has been asked to do – Wilson must also decide whether he and his staff are potentially conflicted in the Hill matter given their starring role in the Murdaugh verdicts.

Meanwhile, Hill and her allies have been caught in several lies as they seek to insulate her from the fallout from these investigations.

Additional ethics charges could be forthcoming once investigators see the extent to which Hill appears to have used taxpayer time – and government resources – to plan, promote and enrich herself from sales of the book.

Also, it now appears as though Hill was keenly aware of the ethical quagmire into which she was wading into by deciding to publish the book in the first place.

In an email dated April 16, 2023, Hill forwarded her co-author – Augusta Business Daily publisher Neil Gordon – and his attorney, Ed Enoch of Augusta, a copy of the state of South Carolina’s manual for clerks of court.

“I looked and see nothing of concern, but that is why we pay attorneys, right?” Gordon responded.

Months later, though, Hill was still expressing concern about her potential ethical and criminal exposure from the book. In an email to former Augusta, Georgia mayor Bob Young, she referred to SCSEC regulators as sending her a “slightly generic response” when she asked about the ethical implications of publishing a book about the trial.

“I really want to be sure I don’t get indicted and tried in a criminal court,” Hill wrote to Young.

In that email, Hill claimed to have spoken with S.C. chief justice Donald Beatty who “verbally gave me the go ahead on writing a book about the Murdaugh trial.”

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RELATED | THE REAL BECKY HILL CONSPIRACY

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When did the idea first occur to Hill to write the book? It’s not immediately clear, but in a November 2022 email to Paris-based author Arthur Cerf – whose Les Meurtes Du Lowcountry was released last month – Hill noted “I am also interested in writing a book.”

“I have lived among the Murdaughs and worked with them and am kind of the ‘feet on the ground’ so to speak,” Hill wrote. “If you’re interested in a partnership, let me know!”

Hill eventually decided to partner with Neil Gordon and his wife, photographer Melissa Gordon.

In discussing the project in April, Neil Gordon told Hill that he and his wife “feel so blessed that you and God chose us.”

“It would not surprise me if the book and subsequent projects develop into some thing much more than we can even envision,” Gordon added. “There will be so many amazing media opportunities for you on camera.”

Hill responded that she couldn’t “wait to see … where this journey takes us.”

Hill’s response also contained one of the first recorded references of her intention to leverage her position to sell copies of the book.

“We were talking about possibly having them commit to pre-ordering the book with promise of a signature,” Hill wrote, referencing her invitation to speak to a local ladies group. “We need to figure out how much to charge :) Paperback most probably.”

Melissa Gordon also made it clear no opportunity would be missed to promote the book – including Hill’s appearance on a Netflix documentary tied to the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga. In an email dated May 7, 2023, Gordon suggested drafting a written agreement between Netflix’s production company and an Augusta, Georgia-based limited liability company – Wind River Media LLC – to promote the book in exchange for unknown concessions.

Wind River Media LLC was incorporated in April 2023. Neil Gordon is its registered agent.

“I think it would be safe to have something in writing that says that (Netflix) will give ‘Wind River Media’ a five-second shot of the book cover with corresponding audio to let the Netflix audience know a book is being published,” Melissa Gordon wrote. “I would not say what its in exchange for or use Becky Hill (for your own protection) … if that makes sense??”

Hill agreed.

“If you have the time to type it up, that would be great!!” Hill responded.

Hill and the Gordons also sent each other (and others) drafts of chapters of the book – and draft cover artwork – over the clerk of court’s taxpayer-provided email address.

(Click to View)


Draft covers of Colleton County clerk of court Becky Hill’s ‘Behind the Doors of Justice’ book. (Colleton County)

Of interest? Both draft covers contained prominent references to the book containing “never before seen photos.” Hill previously promoted the paperback edition of the book by referencing its inclusion of “sixteen pages of exclusive black and white photos.” She also promoted her deluxe hardcover edition by referencing its inclusion of “twenty-four pages of exclusive colored (sic) photos.”

References to these “exclusive” images disappeared from the book’s online promotions not long after Hill became aware of the ethics complaints filed against her. Also, the entire Behind the Doors of Justice website was scrubbed once we reported on the details of the ethics complaints against Hill three weeks ago.

This leads us back to an oft-discussed image of Murdaugh “resting in his holding cell while the jury deliberated” which was used by Melissa Gordon and her husband to drum up sales of the book in June of 2023.

Hill claimed the photo in question was snapped by Gary Hale – a former law enforcement officer who is now a member of the clerk of court’s staff.  According to Hill, Hale snapped the photo with his cell phone from a publicly available monitor located in the main hallway of the courthouse – i.e. an area where anyone with a cell phone could have presumably taken a picture. This claim was parroted by an erstwhile influential podcast which has been advancing the narrative that Hill is being framed as part of an elaborate scheme to secure Murdaugh a new trial.

Is the claim accurate? No.

The image in question was actually taken from a large-screen television located within Hill’s office. This provenance – and the fact so many images were touted by Hill and her co-author as “exclusives” – goes directly to the allegation in the ethics complaint that Hill “used her political position and authority to obtain confidential information and digital images of the defendant and others during the trial.”

And then used those materials to make money …

How much money has Hill made from the book? Good question …

In an email dated July 10, 2023, Hill contacted a Walterboro, S.C. insurance agent about purchasing errors and omissions insurance coverage for the book. In that email, Hill referenced the Wind River Media LLC incorporation formed three months earlier by Neil Gordon.

Of interest? Hill indicated Wind River Media had estimated revenues of $200,000 at the time – and listed the website for her book as its address.

As previously noted, Hill’s website was scrubbed on December 2, 2023 – a day after this news outlet exclusively reported on the details of the ethics complaints against her. That purge was effectuated by Melissa Gordon, who wrote that she “unpublished” the book’s website at Hill’s request (i.e. “as you requested Becky”). Gordon also hid the book’s promotional Facebook group – making it “invisible” to anyone who was not a member.

“The only other option for the Facebook page would be to delete it, and that of course would not look good,” Melissa Gordon wrote.

(Click to View)

Neil and Melissa Gordon (Facebook)

While Hill and the Gordons clearly collaborated to shut down their website – and to simultaneously block public access to a social media group they were using to promote the book – the emails released this week indicated there is some potential behind-the-scenes tension between the co-authors.

In a message to Thad Moore of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier dated September 13, 2023 – a week after she was first accused of jury tampering – Hill told the reporter “if you will wait on me, just a couple more days, I will be prepared to talk.”

“Please do not talk to Neil Gordon without me,” Hill added. “We have asked him not to talk without me, but as you know, he isn’t listening.”

Hill promised Moore that her story “will be worth the wait.”

In another email to reporter Laura Collins of The (U.K.) Daily Mail dated November 7, 2023, Hill lamented having to remain quiet about the jury tampering allegations, saying her silence “has given so many the impression that they can go on believing the lies that have been set forth” by Murdaugh attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin.

“Every. Single. Word. they have uttered has been lies,” Hill wrote to Collins, referring to Harpootlian and Griffin. “How do lawyers, senators, i.e., get away with something like this. It’s just corruption. And sadly, many people don’t want the search for truth. I have a lot to say. LOL.”

In a previous email to Collins, Hill indicated she was willing to speak but noted that it “would totally need to be off the record for now.”

“I’m paying my team of lawyers good money to keep quiet,” she wrote.

“It’s sad that one man can call a press conference and accuse someone of so many lies and the whole world believes this man who has a client that is a known liar and convicted murderer,” Hill added in yet another message to Collins. “And this one man is as shady as they come. And people KNOW this. There is not one word of truth in this situation except that they did drive their Mercedes cars down dirt roads and bullied jurors. This is what happens when you mess with a Murdaugh. Sorry for venting. I will try to let you know when we hear.”

As the allegations against her have mushroomed, Hill has apparently been making preparations in the event she is removed from her position.

“I know that you have noticed a few things that I have taken down out of the office and put in boxes,” Hill wrote to clerk’s office employees Amy Shaw and Cindy Nettles on December 5, 2023 – a little over two weeks ago. “Truly, that is only because I am scared. I am just not sure what is happening. Nothing has happened. I am just downsizing in case I get a phone call. Or a letter in the mail telling me to step down. I haven’t done anything. But with the way this crazy case is going, I am not sure of anything expect that my God, is still in control.”

This is obviously a developing story … so please check back for updates as well as future reports.

Research director Jenn Wood not only contributed to this report, she will be filing several follow-up stories as we continue to review the materials, receive additional emails (and attachments) and speak with those familiar with their contents.

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THE EMAILS …

(Via: Colleton County)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

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 and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.

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12 comments

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VERITAS Top fan December 21, 2023 at 12:06 pm

Standing by Rebecca Hill.

AleX Murderer and his team of buffoon circus clowns are all about tactics such as these being foisted upon the injustice system in South Carolina, especially in the 14th circuit. Where’s the money coming from to prolong this agony of good people who thought this was a slammed door shut and triple-locked conviction? The prosecution’s evidence presented at trial proved way beyond reasonable doubt that Murderer executed his wife and son in cold blood. He’s a liar, cheat, thief, con and coward. He’s used and abused people his entire life. He’s a narcissistic temper-tantrum prone psychopath/sociopath. He is depraved and a danger to everyone he meets. He is evil incarnate. There is no humanity in him.

And because of what is being revealed about the Murdaugh legacy, the courthouse Murdaugh portraits should be permanently removed.

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SubZeroIQ December 21, 2023 at 4:06 pm

Who are you?
What did the Murdaughs do to you?
What did Becky “Boo” Hill do for you?
Your shrillness and obsessive litany of insults indicate to me that you are one the two female real killers of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh and you are now in a panic that a new trial will reveal the real killers.
Methinks she doth protest too much!

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VERITAS Top fan December 21, 2023 at 8:12 pm

Griff, Harpo, that you?

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SubZeroIQ December 21, 2023 at 11:01 pm

You wish! Those weaklings could not stand up to you as I, with God’s help, can.
Let the truth come out and be shouted from the roof tops.

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VERITAS Top fan December 22, 2023 at 10:02 am

Two 5’2″ female assassins . . . got it.

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Liz M Glawson Top fan December 21, 2023 at 10:15 pm

I realize this is a minor point in the grand scheme of things…. But, correct me if I’m wrong… I was under the impression that cell phones, cameras, or devices with recording capabilities, were NOT allowed in the courtroom during the Murdaugh trial??? So, how could “anyone with a cell phone have taken photos of the security monitor showing Alex in his holding cell during jury deliberations? Seems impossible if cellphones weren’t allowed in the first place. I highly doubt anyone but the bailiff could see the monitor, but even if they could, taking a photo of it seems impossible given no one could have devices.

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SubZeroIQ December 21, 2023 at 10:59 pm

Right you are, dear. Theory is one thing; reality is another.

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SubZeroIQ December 21, 2023 at 11:08 pm

And some questions:
1. Is Melissa Brinson Gordon the daughter of Claudia Smith Brinson, some loudmouthed navel gazer from the State Newspaper’s writer-bloated days?
2. Is Gary Hale the guy who, with eyes spewing hate, stood behind Alex Murdaugh (“AM”) as he was being sentenced? And is that the same Gary Hale who ended up on the cover of “Behind the Doors of Justice”?
3. If so, what is the deal? What deal did Gary Hale cut with Becky Hill?

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AC Top fan December 22, 2023 at 7:14 am

Fact is Beck Hill is an opportunistic hack who thought she could make quick money and got caught doing it. Many of her described actions are criminal and regardless of how one feels about Murdaugh or his legal team she undertook this get rich quick scheme of her own volition while violating the trust of the citizens who elected her. If he is granted a new trial the blame falls squarely on her and no one else. There must be something in the Colleton county water as she is every bit the fraudster Murdaugh is, just not on such a grand scale. She need to be indicted for misconduct so other elected officials in her position may think twice about their conduct.

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SubZeroIQ December 22, 2023 at 10:15 am

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that are underlings.” From Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar.
It’s not the water in South Carolina’s 14th judicial circuit or anywhere else. Sentient, competent adults are responsible for their own choices. And the rest of us are responsible to hold each other to the consequences of those choices.
He whose birth is supposedly celebrated this season, ironically with huge exchanges of money, said it: “The love of money is the root of all evils.”
I was truly moved by Corey Fleming’s tearful, and I believe very sincere, revelation in his sentencing to the effect that he now understands it is not the material possessions. He went on to say he had never before understood the value of the love his wife has for him and had been giving him. So long as his wife continues giving him that love, Fleming will be a happy man, even in prison. I just hope that prison term is shortened in proportion and comparison to others’ transgressions and punishments and that people start loving the penitents instead of gloating over their fate.
I do not want Becky “Boo” Hill or Mark Tinsley, for that matter, imprisoned for their obstruction of justice. I want them to think how they “thanked” that God who saw each of them through a different cancer by taking His name in vain and by framing the innocent, which is hateful to God’s heart.
God bless us everyone, including Tiny Tim.

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SubZeroIQ December 22, 2023 at 8:03 pm

FITS dear, in French, only the first letter of a book title is capitalized unless it also contains a proper noun. If “low-country” is a proper noun (and in French “les pays bas” refers to northern Belgium and Holland), then the title is Les meurtres du Low-county; and that is “meurtres,” not “meurtes.”
In German all common nouns, whether in a title or not, are capitalized.
The more interesting aspect of that French book, the summary of which proves what I (able to read social media in several languages) knew: “the world” was never as interested in Alex Murdaugh (“AM”) as South Carolininans fancied.
From the summary:
C’est aussi et surtout une histoire qui questionne l’Amérique sur elle-même: l’idée de la famille, du succès, du pouvoir, de la violence… L’histoire d’une dynastie sur le déclin dans un pays en déclin. La petite ville de Walterboro se prépare pour le procès du siècle. L’ouragan du true crime s’apprête à déferler au sud d’un État ” trop petit pour être une république, trop grand pour être un asile de fous “.
Arthur Cerf s’est installé 8 semaines durant dans le comté de Colleton pour suivre ce procès-fleuve et raconter la fin d’une dynastie.
“un pays en déclin” is what the world thinks of the U.S. when the U.S. is not listenning.
Well! I am one of those managing to stay down of the quasi-farm after I have seen (and lived in) Paris, which is also en déclin.
The point of all this supercilious stuff is that the en déclin curve needs to be inflected upward, God so willing and Jean Toal and FITSNews so permitting.
Compris?

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SubZeroIQ December 24, 2023 at 12:16 pm

A theory making the rounds makes NO SENSE at all.
Some claim that Becky “Boo” was paid BY THE MURDAUGHS to screw up so Alex Murdaugh (“AM”) would get a new trial!
Really? Really people? Really?
Suppose a very powerful and very rich family wants to murder beloved members of itself for no reason at all other than to get MORE sympathy IN ADDITION to that lot of sympathy from a dying father.
Would that family pay the clerk of court to make the jury vote guilty then admit she screwed up to get a new trial?
Or would that family pay the clerk to make the jury vote NOT GUILTY in the first place and be done with it?
Indeed, why not use that supposedly infinite money and influence to get that sympathy without murdering anyone in the first place?
YOU tell me!
Also, the Prosecution’s time of death is WRONG. The deaths occurred between 9:30 pm and 9:45 pm NOT at 8:45 pm. What died at that early time are the cell phone batteries, not the cell phone owners.
If you believe you will die if and when the battery on your cell phone dies, then PLEASE keep your cell phone FULLY charged at all times.

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