South Carolina circuit court judge Bentley Price – who had another busy week putting violent defendants back on the streets – withdrew abruptly from a civil case involving a lawyer who amassed fame and fortune during the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga.
Price’s decision to stand down was announced by the S.C. supreme court just days after our media outlet exposed his attempts to fast track this high-profile case involving Hampton, S.C. attorney Mark Tinsley, an attorney who has fared exceedingly well in front of the scandal-scarred judge in the past.
Price was attempting to fast track an action tied to a 2019 boat crash lawsuit involving the Murdaughs and multiple other defendants – even though the judge was deemed unqualified by a state judicial screening committee and denied another term on the circuit court bench as a result.
His efforts shortly after we reported on it the judicial machinations last Friday …
“Because the case is still in the discovery phase and judge Price’s term as a circuit court judge ends in June of this year, (Price) will be unable to preside over the case until its completion and has requested to be removed from the case,” an administrative order (.pdf) from S.C. chief justice Donald Beatty noted.
“(Price) has requested to be removed from the case …”
-S.C. chief justice Donald Beatty
Sources familiar with the case confirmed Price was compelled to stand down following the publication of our report. He has been replaced on the outrage case by S.C. circuit court judge G.D. Morgan Jr. of Greenville, S.C.
Prior to Price’s decision to stand down, Tinsley had fought hard to keep the embattled judge on the case – arguing the court should permit Price “to complete pending work in the case before he leaves the bench in June 2024.” He also pushed back against Price’s recent disqualification by both the S.C. Bar and the S.C. Judicial Merit Selection Commission (SCJMSC) – the latter of which refused to nominate him for another term on the bench back in November.
“No entity … has declared judge Price is not qualified by ability to hear these matters, rather the Bar and the JMSC found him not qualified by reputation,” Tinsley argued.
Ultimately, the issue became moot when Price requested to be taken off the case – a decision which does not appear to have sat well with Tinsley.
Since our story ran last Friday, Tinsley has filed a libel lawsuit against this media outlet on an unrelated issue – and taken to social media to assail our outlet for engaging in what he refers to as deliberately “malicious” conduct. Our media outlet’s legal team – led by S.C. senator Tom Davis and former U.S. attorney Pete Strom – is preparing a multi-pronged response to Tinsley’s libel suit.
In the case involving judge Price, Tinsley represents the family of the late 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, S.C. – the victim of the 2019 boat crash.
Beach perished in the early morning hours of February 24, 2019 after a 17-foot, center console Sea Hunt fishing boat owned by Alex Murdaugh – and allegedly piloted by his late son, Paul Murdaugh – slammed into a piling near the Archer’s Creek Bridge outside of Parris Island, S.C. Seconds before the boat crashed, GPS data obtained by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) indicated the vessel was traveling at a speed of approximately 29 miles per hour (or approximately 25 knots).
Four passengers – and Murdaugh – made it out of the water following the crash. Beach did not. Her body was discovered a week later by fishermen.
Paul Murdaugh and others on the boat were in a “grossly intoxicated” state at the time of the crash, according to responding law enforcement officers. To quote the late Randolph Murdaugh III – one of three Murdaughs to hold the post of S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor between 1920-2006 – Paul Murdaugh was “drunker than Cooter Brown” at the time of the crash. And despite alleged obstruction efforts by his father, Paul Murdaugh was eventually hit with multiple criminal charges in connection with the incident.
Those charges – and a civil suit filed on March 29, 2019 by Beach’s family – initiated a series of events that brought down the once-powerful “House of Murdaugh,” a family legal dynasty which ran the Palmetto Lowcountry like a fiefdom for nearly a century. Indeed, Beach’s death was also the driving narrative in ‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal’ – a smash hit documentary that premiered on Netflix on February 22, 2023 and exposed the Murdaugh family and its dark secrets to an international audience.
The boat crash lawsuit settled last summer – but a separate “outrage” case alleging misconduct by one of the corporate defendants is still pending. That lawsuit – filed in December 2021 – focuses on the unauthorized disclosure of confidential mediation materials by those allegedly in the employ of wealthy Savannah, Georgia convenience store magnate Greg Parker, founder of the Parker’s Kitchen chain of gas stations.
Parker and his company were among the co-defendants in the boat crash case after one of his stores sold liquor to the teens in the hours leading up to the crash.
This second lawsuit has also spawned allegations of unauthorized disclosures by Tinsley … as well as alleged conflicts of interest involving a former reporter at this media outlet. Stay tuned for additional updates related to this tangled web as all of these cases move forward …
(S.C. Supreme Court)
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 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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