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Alex Murdaugh Sentenced to 40 Years in Federal Prison
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By Associated Press
Published 2 weeks ago on
April 1, 2024

Former attorney Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison in a South Carolina courtroom on Monday. (Andrew J. Whitaker/AP)

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — Alex Murdaugh, donned in a prison jumpsuit, made his way into a South Carolina courtroom on Monday, where he was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison.

Murdaugh was penalized in federal court for stealing from clients and his law firm. The 55-year-old disbarred attorney is already serving a life sentence without parole in a state prison for the murder of his wife and son.

Federal agents had recommended a sentence ranging from 17 1/2 to just under 22 years.

Murdaugh also pleaded guilty in state court to financial crimes and was ordered to spend 27 years in prison. The federal sentence will run concurrently with his state prison term, and he will likely have to serve all 40 years if his murder convictions are overturned on appeal.

Harsher Punishment for Stealing from Vulnerable Clients

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel sentenced Murdaugh to a harsher punishment than suggested because he stole from “the most needy, vulnerable people,” including a client who became a quadriplegic after a crash, a state trooper who was injured on the job, and a trust fund intended for children whose parents were killed in a wreck.

Murdaugh stole from people who “placed all their problems and all their hopes” on him, Gergel said.

The 22 federal counts are the final charges outstanding for Murdaugh, who three years ago was an established lawyer negotiating multimillion-dollar settlements in tiny Hampton County, where members of his family served as elected prosecutors and ran the area’s premier law firm for nearly a century.

Murdaugh will also have to pay nearly $9 million in restitution.

“There is a staggering human toll to every cent,” said attorney Justin Bamberg, who represented several of Murdaugh’s victims.

Prosecutors Seek Harsher Sentence

Prosecutors asked the judge to give Murdaugh a harsher sentence because FBI agents believe he is not telling the whole truth about what happened to $6 million he stole and whether an unnamed attorney aided his criminal schemes.

Murdaugh’s largest scheme involved the sons of his longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield. She died in a fall at the family home. Murdaugh promised to take care of Satterfield’s family, then conspired with a lawyer friend who pleaded guilty on a scheme to steal $4 million in a wrongful death settlement with the family’s insurer.

In total, Murdaugh took settlement money from or inflated fees or expenses for more than two dozen clients. Prosecutors said the FBI found 11 more victims than the state investigation found and that Murdaugh stole nearly $1.3 million from them.

Murdaugh’s Apology and Defense

Murdaugh apologized to his victims at his sentencing Monday, expressing his “guilt, sorrow, shame, embarrassment, humiliation.” He offered to meet with victims so they can express their feelings and “more closely inspect my sincerity.”

“There’s not enough time and I don’t possess a sufficient vocabulary to adequately portray to you in words the magnitude of how I feel about the things I did,” Murdaugh said.

Murdaugh attributed his actions to nearly two decades of addiction to opioids and said he was proud he has been clean for 937 days.

Gergel dismissed this explanation, stating, “No truly impaired person could pull off these complex transactions,” referring to the maze of fake accounts, juggled checks and money movements that hid the thefts for nearly 20 years.

Prosecutor Emily Limehouse said Murdaugh’s claims don’t make sense because he told the FBI he was taking the same amount of pills as he did when his addiction started in 2008, but the amount of money he stole increased rapidly in the years before his arrest.

“He was adamant all of the money was spent on drugs. It doesn’t add up,” Limehouse said.

Continued Investigation and Appeals

Murdaugh was convicted a year ago of killing his younger son Paul with a shotgun and his wife, Maggie, with a rifle. While he has pleaded guilty to dozens of financial crimes, he adamantly denies he killed them and testified in his own defense. There will be years of appeals in the murder cases.

The case has captivated true crime fans, spawning dozens of podcast episodes and thousands of social media posts.

Prosecutors want to keep many of the FBI statements secret, saying they are still investigating the missing money and who might have helped Murdaugh to steal it. They say making the information public would jeopardize an ongoing grand jury investigation.

The defense asked for a lighter sentence, comparing Murdaugh’s possible sentence to 25 years for crypto entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried or Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes’ 11 years for duping investors, saying they stole billions while Murdaugh’s thefts were in millions.

But lawyer Eric Bland, who represented the family of Murdaugh’s housekeeper, said there was a big difference.

“Those victims were investing money,” he said standing with two of his clients. “They lost loved ones.”

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