CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Alex Murdaugh pleaded guilty to 22 federal financial crimes charges in a downtown Charleston courtroom on Thursday morning.
Murdaugh appeared before Judge Richard Gergel and admitted that he stole millions of dollars from his former clients. The disbarred attorney turned convicted murderer agreed to plead guilty to those charges in a court filing earlier this week.
Those charges include conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering.
News 2 anchor Brendan Clark, who was inside the courtroom for Thursday’s hearing, said Murdaugh entered the courtroom with a smile and was seen talking to his attorneys, seemingly concerned about the number of media members who were present.
But he quickly turned serious, saying he was proud to be 744 days sober and away from opioids and alcohol. And he became emotional when talking about why he was accepting the plea deal. Murdaugh said he wanted to take responsibility and wanted his son to see him take responsibility.
He also hoped that by pleading guilty, the people he hurt would feel some kind of healing.
“This is, we believe, the first step for him in putting this behind him,” Attorney Dick Harpootlian while speaking to the media after Thursday’s hearing. “He did not argue with a single fact. He did not attempt to push back on any allegation by the federal government.”
Harpootlian said they believe Murdaugh “feels good” about the plea. “Obviously, he’s going to be sentenced for it and it will be substantial time, but he’s willing to accept that,” he said.
Thursday’s plea hearing was the first time Murdaugh has pleaded guilty to any of the crimes he’s accused of. In the past, he pleaded not guilty to state financial crimes charges and even not guilty in the killings of his wife and youngest son.
“There’s two things Alex will tell you. One, he stole the money- two, he did not kill Maggie and Paul,” said Harpootlian. “And three, he admitted to stealing the money since he was first confronted in September of 2021 by his law firm,” added Jim Griffin.
Federal prosecutors say their goal in holding him accountable for the financial crimes in federal court is to “ensure that he is never a free man again.”
“Today is the first time Alex Murdaugh has been held accountable for his decades of thefts of more than 10 and a half million dollars- from his clients and from his law firm and from others who trusted him. As you heard today, Murdaugh’s financial crimes were calculated and heartless. His plea in federal court today is a product of nearly two years of investigating work by the FBI and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division,” federal prosecutors said.
As part of his plea, federal prosecutors say Murdaugh agreed to waive his appeal and post-conviction rights, with narrow exceptions. “He has also agreed to be fully truthful with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Provided Murdaugh fully complies with the plea agreement, the Government has agreed—consistent with the recommendation of the United States Sentencing Guidelines—to recommend that Murdaugh’s federal prison sentence run concurrent to any state sentence imposed for the same conduct.”
Murdaugh will be required to surrender a minimum of $9 million as part of the agreement. That’s roughly the amount that he stole as a result of the crimes related to the federal charges.
Murdaugh faces the following penalties:
- Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000;
- Bank fraud is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000;
- Two counts of wire fraud are punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000;
- Three counts of wire fraud are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000;
- Conspiracy to commit wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000; and
- Money laundering is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
A state trial for those alleged financial crimes was set for the Monday after Thanksgiving during a hearing held before Judge Clifton Newman last week.