BEAUFORT, S.C. — For the confessed crimes of stealing millions from people who trusted him for more than a decade, disgraced and disbarred South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to 27 years in state prison Tuesday.
Prosecutors initially charged Murdaugh with more than a hundred financial crimes including money laundering, breach of trust and tax evasion, involving 18 victims. But under a guilty plea agreement, given final approval by Judge Clifton Newman Tuesday, the charges were reduced to 22 crimes.
According to the plea agreement, the state Attorney General’s Office recommended that Murdaugh serve the maximum prison term for each charge he pleaded to. Murdaugh will be allowed to serve the 27-year sentence concurrently with the two life sentences he received on after being convicted of murdering his wife and younger son in March.
Before being sentenced Tuesday, Murdaugh spoke at length to apologize for his crimes — as did his victims — but Newman, who also presided over the murder trial, had the final say.
Newman called Murdaugh an enigma and compared him to another "heartless, empty" criminal he once sentenced. He called Murdaugh's crimes "unimaginable" for "preying upon" those of a "perceived lower estate."
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Victims attorneys speak out on damage caused by Alex Murdaugh
Although Newman had accepted Murdaugh's verbal guilty plea during a previous hearing, Murdaugh's victims had the opportunity to speak out before sentencing on Tuesday. One by one, those in attendance looked Murdaugh in the eye and expressed a mixture of emotions.
Tony Satterfield, whose mother, the late Gloria Satterfield, worked for Murdaugh, said: "You lied, you stole, you betrayed me, my mom and my family," but added, "I forgive you, and I'll pray for you."
Gloria's sister, Ginger Harriott Hadwin, told Murdaugh that her sister now has a more positive legacy through the creation of the Gloria's Gift Foundation, which helps local families at Christmas "so that Gloria would be remembered forever."
"Do you not have a soul?" she added. "I don't understand it. You are not the person I thought I knew."
An emotional J.J. Jinks, victim and a lifelong Murdaugh friend, wept as he said: "I've been waiting on this day to look you in your eyes... I trusted you with everything... what kind of animal are you?"
Jinks added, "I'm not crying because of what you stole from me, I'm crying because of what you did to everybody... those children."
Attorney Justin Bamberg, who represents several of Murdaugh's victims, said Tuesday's sentencing shows victims that "dragons can be slain."
"This is one of the worst nightmares, one of the worst fairy tales, they ever had to live, and it needs to end," Bamberg added.
Alex Murdaugh apologizes to victim, family, law firm
Murdaugh, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit and shackled, spoke for more than 40 minutes before the sentencing.
He apologized to all of his victims and denied he killed his family. Murdaugh blamed his drug addiction and criticized some of the media and others on social media for their treatment of his family.
"I want each and every one of you to know that I listened to you and I heard you," Murdaugh said after hearing from his victims. "Despite the things I did, I care about each and every one of you."
Murdaugh addressed some of his victims directly and by name, recalling good times spent with them, telling them he and/or his late wife loved them. He alsdeeply apologizedth to his family ans former partners at the family law firm.
"I'm so sorry that I went to such lengths to hide my addiction and my criminal actions from you," he said. "I'm so sorry that I let each of you down, and I'm so sorry I humiliated each of you... and destroyed our family's reputation... and destroyed our law firm."
Murdaugh concluded by saying he was 812 days clean from drugs, thanked his rehab treatment centers, and stated, "I am fully committed to trying to be a better person. I'm going to do as much good as possible and help as many people as I can while incarcerated."
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Why did Alex Murdaugh get 27 years?
State prosecutor Creighton Waters opened Tuesday's sentencing hearing with a roughly two-hour outline of Murdaugh's many victims and the crimes he pleaded guilty to.
Waters stated that Murdaugh was responsible for roughly $12.4 million in thefts or loss, with only $8.5 milliot offset by payouts from his former family law firm, now known as Parker Law Group.
Waters added that the 27-year punishment was fair and just for several reasons: Murdaugh admitted his guilt, and it would spare the victims the ordeal of testifying while saving small South Carolina counties the costs of trials.
"With this result here today, we assure that Mr. Murdaugh will stay in prison for the remainder of his natural life," Waters said. "We can be assured he is not leaving S.C. state prison."
Murdaugh pleads guilty to both financial and drug crimes
From the fall of 2021 until early 2023, Murdaugh was struck with wave after wave of criminal indictments — each containing multiple charges — alleging that he orchestrated insurance scams and stole from his partners in the family law firm, as well as multiple clients across several South Carolina Lowcountry counties.
It was a crime spree that led Murdaugh to shoot and kill two of his family members, state prosecutors said.
While Murdaugh has denied the murders since his March 2 conviction, he has acknowledged his guilt in his other crimes in many ways: in recorded interviews with state police, in court filings such as confessions of judgment, by pleading guilty in federal court, and even in tearful admissions on the witness stand during his double murder trial.
This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Alex Murdaugh sentenced to 27 years for financial and drug crimes