HAMPTON, S.C. (WSAV) – How much is too much when it comes to bail for Alex Murdaugh?
That’s the question a South Carolina judge is debating after a virtual bond hearing Monday.
The focus of much of the hearing was on the money — whether Murdaugh has any and if his bond should be lowered.
Judge Alison Lee previously set his bond at a full $7 million for the 48 total financial crime charges (47 felonies) he faces, ranging from fraud, forgery and computer crimes, to money laundering and more, and include 47 felonies. His attorneys say the amount is “ridiculous” because there is no way Murdaugh could pay it.
“Your honor, I would ask that you set a bond that would allow him to post 10% because if he doesn’t, he will have to borrow that from family,” said Dick Harpootlian, Murdaugh’s attorney. “And, of course, if he doesn’t appear, they lose that money.”
Harpootlian tried to make the case that Murdaugh has no available assets. He brought in John Lay, one of the lawyers in charge of the receivership placed upon all of Murdaugh’s money and property.
Lay explained that Murdaugh has only three bank accounts that he knows of, totaling $10,000.
There is also a $2.1 million retirement account in Alex’s name, but Harpootlian and Lay made it clear that the receivership would object to him liquidating or taking any money out of that account without their approval.
Harpootlian, with Murdaugh himself virtually in attendance, explained his client owns four parcels of land in Berkeley County and a beach house in Edisto, as well as the Moselle property. None of which he would be able to sell right now, the attorney said.
Creighton Waters of the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office says the $7 million bond should remain intact. Waters says Murdaugh is the sole beneficiary of his wife Maggie’s estate, which includes the massive 150 plus acre Moselle property she and her son Paul were killed on.
Waters added that Alex stands to make potentially “seven figures” from his father Randolph Murdaugh’s estate as well.
He said the investigation shows Murdaugh paid himself more than $2 million in stolen money from victims, much of that money has not been accounted for.
Waters also talked about jailhouse phone calls — one just on the last day that show Murdaugh still has no concern about money. He talked about paying for golf trips for friends and telling people he will pay them when he gets out,” according to Waters.
“He is talking about that retirement account all the time,” he added. “Talking about, ‘I can borrow against it but I don’t want to have more interest and penalty and we have to make sure the creditors can’t get to it.'”
“Talking about, ‘Go spend this, go spend that. I’m going to pay back this other relative that has loaned me money,'” said Waters. “So this is not a man who is that concerned about spending money. This is also a man who by his own action and his own words, apparently successfully, so acts like he has assets under his control.”
Both state prosecutors and attorneys representing alleged victims believe that if Murdaugh is released on bond, he is not only a threat to himself but to the entire community.
Harpootlian says the claims are bogus and without his law license, which is currently suspended, Murdaugh no longer has the tools needed to make money from legal clients.
Waters says several victims have claimed they have been threatened, and if Murdaugh is released, he could still pose a threat to victims who have spoken out or made accusations against the disgraced South Carolina attorney.
One of Murdaugh’s alleged victims and former clients, state trooper Thomas Moore, says the lawyer took more than $100,000 from his injury settlement and left him with medical bills and no money to cover the cost.
Moore, who was injured after being hit during a traffic stop, hired Murdaugh to represent him to win a settlement to cover medical bills.
Moore alleges he was given bad financial advice and gave the check for $100,000 to Murdaugh, who immediately went and cashed the check and placed it in a personal account, instead of giving it to the Murdaugh family law firm.
“I don’t have anything personal against Mr. Murdaugh — he’s a likable guy,” explained Moore. “But the fact of the matter is he’s been so nice to me and so helpful to me, that if he’s going to steal my money that I need to pay my own medical bills to survive financially, he’s going to steal from anybody.”
After nearly two hours of testimony, Lee said she would consider the evidence and make a written decision on whether she would lower Murdaugh’s bond
The judge didn’t provide a timetable for the decision.