Alex Murdaugh sentenced in federal court to 40 years in prison for financial crimes

by 24USATVApril 2, 2024, 12:20 a.m. 21
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Convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh received another prison sentence Monday, this time in federal court, where a judge sentenced him to 40 years after he pleaded guilty to a raft of financial crimes, including nearly two dozen charges of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering.

The federal sentence – which significantly exceeded prosecutors’ recommendation and orders Murdaugh to pay more than $8.7 million in restitution to his victims – will run concurrently with the 27 years he’s already serving following his guilty plea in state court for similar misconduct. Both cases stemmed from myriad schemes prosecutors say saw the now-disbarred attorney defraud his personal injury clients and law firm of millions of dollars.

Those sentences are in addition to the two consecutive sentences of life without parole Murdaugh, 55, received a year ago for the murders of his wife, Maggie, and 22-year-old son, Paul – killings state prosecutors cast as a desperate attempt to distract from and delay investigations into his unraveling financial crimes.

While Murdaugh insists he is innocent of the murders, he has admitted fraud and did so again Monday, saying he believed “some of the things I did” were due to an opioid addiction. Still, he said, “I knew better.”

“I literally am filled with sorrow, and I am filled with guilt over the things that I did to the people that I care about so much,” Murdaugh told the judge shortly before the sentence was handed down.

“I understand,” he said, “the natural reaction to what I just said is probably, ‘Is he sorry for what he did, or is he sorry that he got caught?’ … But I assure you and every victim that I hurt that I am sorry for the things I did.”

Murdaugh pleaded guilty last September to 22 federal charges, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.

The sentence levied by US District Court Judge Richard M. Gergel exceeded by 10 years the prison term of 30 years recommended by federal prosecutors, which the court “believes is sufficient but not greater than necessary.”

In sentencing Murdaugh, the judge repeatedly cited the “staggering human toll” of his crimes, and his repeated targeting of vulnerable people who were injured, sick or grieving and had come to the attorney for help.

“They placed all of their problems and their hope in him,” Gergel said. “And it was from those people, he abused and stole.”

Gergel dismissed Murdaugh’s statements, blaming his actions on his addiction, saying “no truly impaired person could pull off the complexity of some of these transactions.” Murdaugh’s actions disgraced the entire legal community, the judge said, and a “serious sentence” was needed to serve as an example to other lawyers who might attempt to engage in the same conduct.

“This sentence must speak the truth,” Gergel said, “and the truth here is that this is a reprehensible crime.”

Monday’s sentencing hearing began with discussion of a recent allegation by prosecutors that Murdaugh failed a polygraph examination, violating the terms of a plea agreement that explicitly required his honesty.

Prosecutors asked to be freed from the terms of the deal, which stipulated they would recommend a sentence concurrent with the one handed down in state court for the same misconduct. Murdaugh’s attorneys rejected that claim, accusing the government’s polygraph examiner of “odd conduct” that skewed the results of the exam.

Gergel, however, indicated Monday morning he intended to hand down a concurrent sentence, rendering the issue moot.

Still, US Attorney Adair Boroughs indicated her office was “very happy with the outcome.”

“The sentence today was about obtaining justice for the financial victims of Alex Murdaugh,” Boroughs told reporters outside court.

“These victims are not just names listed in a court filing,” she said. “They are real people who trusted an attorney at the most difficult times of their lives, when they had lost loved ones, when they were severely injured – and they were betrayed in those vulnerable moments.”

Attorneys for Murdaugh’s victims similarly welcomed the judge’s sentence, telling reporters outside court it was yet another guarantee Murdaugh – who is appealing his murder convictions – would remain behind bars.

“Today he was wrapped tight in belt and suspenders and saran wrap. He will not get a breath of fresh air,” said Eric Bland, who represents a number of Murdaugh’s victims, including the family of his late housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield.

“Hopefully, he serves out the double-murder convictions. But the backstop was always these financial crimes, and so I’m very grateful for my clients,” Bland said.

Whether Murdaugh will be able to pay back the restitution he owes his victims is an open question. Boroughs said it had “yet to be determined” how much federal authorities could recover, but said, “We do pursue restitution ordered by the court and try to make victims whole.”

But according to Justin Bamberg, another attorney for Murdaugh’s victims, “The reality is … Alex will never ever be able to pay anybody he hurt a smidgen of what they truly deserve, of what he owes them.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Dianne Gallagher reported from Charleston, South Carolina, while Dakin Andone reported and wrote this story in New York. Jade Gordon, Alta Spells and Wesley Bruef contributed to this report.

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