Murdaughs

Contentious Court Filings Submitted Ahead Of Alex Murdaugh’s Federal Sentencing

New financial victims, more missing money and disputed polygraph results fuel sentencing saga …

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Aside from his high-profile murder appeal, the many court cases surrounding Alex Murdaugh are supposed to be mercifully winding down – but instead of this saga wrapping up neatly and concisely, it’s looking more like the end of Reservoir Dogs‘ with everyone pointing fingers at everyone else.

On Thursday (March 28, 2024), attorneys for Murdaugh – a disbarred South Carolina attorney, disgraced former badge-holder, confessed fraudster and convicted double-murderer – responded to a motion filed earlier in the week by federal prosecutors in the office of U.S. attorney Adair Ford Boroughs.

The feds’ motion sought to hold Murdaugh in breach of the plea deal he agreed to last fall.

Murdaugh is currently serving two life sentences within the S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC) system for the murders of his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh on June 7, 2021 at Moselle – the family’s 1,700-acre hunting property straddling the Salkehatchie River. Separately, he is serving 27 years in state prison as part of a negotiated plea for 22 state charges involving his financial schemes.

Murdaugh’s deal on nearly two dozen federal charges – including conspiracy, bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering tied to more than $10 million he admittedly stole or defrauded from former clients — was signed back in September. However, the agreement was contingent upon him providing “full, complete, and truthful information about all criminal activities about which he has knowledge” and to “submit to a polygraph examination at the government’s election.”

According to the feds, the failed polygraph means Murdaugh hasn’t lived up to his end of the bargain.

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“Murdaugh has failed to cooperate as required under the plea agreement,” prosecutors noted in their motion, asking U.S. district court judge Richard Gergel to find him in violation of the deal and to relieve them of their obligations.

Among those obligations? An apparent agreement which would let Murdaugh serve whatever federal time he received from Gergel “concurrently” – or at the same time – as his state sentence on many of the same financial crimes.  If Murdaugh’s federal sentence were ordered to run consecutive to his state sentence (i.e. if it were to begin immediately begin upon his hypothetical release from state prison), Murdaugh would effectively be facing a life sentence no matter what happens with the appeal of his murder convictions.

Murdaugh’s legal team responded to the federal filing with its own sentencing memorandum (.pdf). In that document, attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin pushed back against prosecutors – arguing “the government’s conduct leading up to the polygraph examination and the agent’s conduct during the examination raises significant concerns as to whether the government has acted in good faith.”

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WHAT HAPPENED DURING THAT POLYGRAPH EXAM?

According to Murdaugh’s defense, “there are legitimate questions as to whether the government intentionally manipulated the results (of the polygraph) to void the plea agreement and achieve the prosecutors’ stated desire to ‘ensure that he’s never a free man again.’”

Specifically, the defense claimed the polygraph examiner “engaged in what can only be described as odd conduct during the pre-test interview.”

The examiner allegedly expressed his belief Murdaugh was innocent of the murders of his wife and son, and then “secretly” confided that he had just returned from performing a polygraph examination on Joran van der Sloot related to the murder of Natalee Holloway.

The examiner also allegedly argued with Murdaugh over the meaning of “hidden assets” – a term the examiner used in his test question.

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RELATED | THE HUNT FOR MURDAUGH’S MISSING MILLIONS

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During the pre-test interview, Murdaugh’s attorneys claim their client expressed confusion and uncertainty regarding the agent’s use of the term “hidden assets” – as Murdaugh had never been requested to identify his assets. According to them, he was unsure as to which assets the investigators and the state-appointed receiver had identified. Defense attorneys claim this confusion – along with the alleged ambiguity of the questions – were what caused Murdaugh to fail the test.

Murdaugh’s attorneys also took the opportunity to pull in the S.C. attorney general’s office – citing a pre-trial filing in the murder case in which it was revealed Curtis Eddie Smith had failed a polygraph exam administered by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) regarding his knowledge and/or involvement in the murders of Maggie and Paul.

“A polygraph examination is a procedure in which a subject is measured for certain physiological and psychological reactions while responding to questions in a controlled environment,” the attorney general’s office noted in the filing. “The polygraph machine is not a ‘lie detector,’ nor does the operator who interprets the test ‘detect lies;’ rather the machine records physical responses from which an examiner may draw somewhat subjective inferences about whether the examinee is being deceptive or otherwise motivated by a sense of guilt or some other emotion.”

Murdaugh’s attorneys also noted the federal motion was “untimely” as the polygraph examination in question took place on October 18, 2023, and the final review of the results was completed by October 26, 2023. In other words, prosecutors knew five months ago Murdaugh had allegedly breached his plea agreement – yet they waited until two days before sentencing to file their motion.

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THE SENTENCE …

In their memorandum, Murdaugh’s attorneys asked the court to impose a sentence within the guideline range that runs concurrently with his state sentence for related conduct – arguing that this would be sufficient and not excessive. They also raised questions about Murdaugh’s alleged opioid addiction and its impact on his actions, his cooperation with the government and the restitution made to victims.

But prosecutors filed their own sentencing memorandum (.pdf) the same day which dropped some additional bombshells. Most notably, the filing revealed Murdaugh allegedly victimized more than 25 individuals and their families and loved ones — in addition to his thefts from his law partners and family members.

According to the federal memorandum, while many of Murdaugh’s victims have been publicly identified in his various high-profile court proceedings there are additional victims who are “understandably reticent to relive their most difficult moments and do not wish to be publicly identified.”

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RELATED | BECKY HILL RESIGNS

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While no names were provided, federal prosecutors listed the initials for eleven new victims – citing $1.3 million in additional client funds stolen by Murdaugh. Importantly, prosecutors stated Murdaugh had not been convicted of – or sentenced in state court – for any conduct related to these eleven new victims.

“He has not yet been held accountable for the full scope of his thefts,” they noted.

Assistant U.S. attorneys Emily LimehouseWinston Holliday and Kathleen Stoughton argued Murdaugh’s sentence “must reflect the seriousness of his conduct and provide just punishment for it,” while also promoting “public respect for the law that Murdaugh has so seriously undermined.”

“For decades, Murdaugh went to unimaginable lengths – deceiving, defrauding and stealing – to enrich himself,” prosecutors alleged. “His victims, his family and his former law partners have suffered consequences that will follow them for the rest of their lives. His crimes have sowed seeds of distrust in the legal profession, the judiciary and the banking system in South Carolina and across the nation.”

Stay tuned to this media outlet for coverage of Murdaugh’s federal sentencing hearing on Monday, April 1, 2024 at 10:00 a.m. EDT.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Jenn Wood (Provided)

Jenn Wood is FITSNews’ incomparable research director. She’s also the producer of the FITSFiles and Cheer Incorporated podcasts and leading expert on all things Murdaugh/ South Carolina justice. A former private investigator with a criminal justice degree, evildoers beware, Jenn Wood is far from your average journalist! A deep dive researcher with a passion for truth and a heart for victims, this mom of two is pretty much a superhero in FITSNews country. Did we mention she’s married to a rocket scientist? (Lucky guy!) Got a story idea or a tip for Jenn? Email her at jenn@fitsnews.com.

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1 comment

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VERITAS Top fan March 31, 2024 at 7:48 pm

The Harpo and Griff method of operation is to accuse everyone else of wrongdoing for their complete failure to defend a convicted career criminal of a myriad of crimes, including murder. I think there are attorneys, judges, law enforcement, legislators and other SC persons of power involved in Murdaugh’s “tangled web,” the Murdaugh Mafia. Think I’m joking? Think again.

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