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Alex Murdaugh faces losing plea deal as the FBI says he lied about financial crimes in polygraph test

Convicted murderer and disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh could lose his plea deal on multiple theft charges after he allegedly lied to the FBI about where the more than $6m he stole ended up, federal prosecutors said in court documents on Tuesday.

Now, prosecutors want the judge to revoke the deal and order Murdaugh to the maximum of well over 100 years in prison when he is sentenced in federal court in Charleston, South Carolina, on Monday.

Murdaugh, 55, who is already serving life without parole in prison after he was found guilty in the the 2021 murders of his wife Maggie and son Paul, pleaded guilty in state court last year to stealing money from clients and his law firm.

He was sentenced to 27 years, which South Carolina prosecutors said is an insurance policy to keep him behind bars in case his murder conviction was ever overturned.

The federal case was supposed to be even more insurance, with whatever sentence Murdaugh received running at the same time as his state sentences.

But now that deal is in doubt after the FBI said the disbarred attorney failed a polygraph that was conducted in October.

Alex Murdaugh (Gavin McIntyre/The Post and Courier via AP, Pool)
Alex Murdaugh (Gavin McIntyre/The Post and Courier via AP, Pool)

Prosecutors said they will ask for the stiffest sentence possible since the plea agreement was breached and require Murdaugh serve his federal sentence at the end of any state sentences.

Each of the 22 counts Murdaugh pleaded guilty to in federal court carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. Some carry a 30-year maximum.

State prosecutors estimated Murdaugh stole more than $12m from clients by diverting settlement money into his own accounts or stealing from his family law firm.

Federal investigators estimate at least $6m of that has not been accounted for, although Murdaugh has said he spent extravagantly on illegal drugs after becoming hooked on opioids.

It came about after three previous FBI interviews of Murdaugh led investigators to think he wasn’t telling the full truth about where at least $6m he stole ended up and the role of an attorney who has not been publicly identified in his crimes, federal prosecutors said.

Federal prosecutors said Murdaugh did, however, appear to tell the truth about the roles banker Russell Laffitte and attorney and old college friend Cory Fleming played in helping him steal. Laffitte was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison, while Fleming is serving nearly four years behind bars after pleading guilty.

In court papers, prosecutors asked to keep the report on the polygraph test and summaries of Murdaugh’s four FBI interviews from the public, saying a grand jury is continuing to investigate and the information could be used to tamper with evidence or influence witnesses.

Prosecutors said there is a long history of federal law that won’t allow Murdaugh to revoke his guilty plea since he broke the terms of the deal.

“We are working on a reply to this 11th-hour filing by the government,” said Jim Griffin, one of Murdaugh’s attorneys, according to The State.

A footnote in the prosecution’s filing said they were against keeping the polygraph report secret, the Associated Press reported.

When he pleaded guilty in federal court on 21 September, it was the first time he admitted to a crime and promised to stick to the requirements of his deal, including being “fully truthful and forthright with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies by providing full, complete and truthful information about all criminal activities about which he/she has knowledge.”

“I want to take responsibility,” he said in September. “I want my son to see me take responsibility. It’s my hope that by taking responsibility that the people I’ve hurt can begin to heal.”

The news comes just days after Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca ‘Becky’ Hill resigned after being plagued by accusations of jury tampering during Murdaugh’s murder trial (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP, Pool, File)
The news comes just days after Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca ‘Becky’ Hill resigned after being plagued by accusations of jury tampering during Murdaugh’s murder trial (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP, Pool, File)

The news of the polygraph test comes just days after Colleton County Clerk of Court Rebecca “Becky” Hill announced that she was resigning from her position after being plagued by accusations of jury tampering during Murdaugh’s murder trial.

In what marked her first public appearance since the bombshell allegations were made by the convicted killer’s legal team last year, Ms Hill confirmed to reporters on Monday outside the courthouse that she will not run for re-election, adding that she is quitting her role effective immediately.

“I will now be able to focus on being a wife, mother and grandmother to my two grandboys,” she said. “And will be spending time with the people who mean the most to me.”

Her attorney Justin Bamberg insisted that the announcement “today is not in response to any new development in the state investigations” into the court clerk – instead claiming that her resignation is about allowing other candidates to run.

He refused to address the state investigation against her when pressed by reporters at the courthouse.

The court clerk is currently under investigation by South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) for allegations of abusing her government position for financial and personal gain, by tampering with the jury at Murdaugh’s trial in order to help sell copies of her upcoming book.

SLED is the same state agency that led the investigation into the murders of Murdaugh’s wife Maggie and son Paul in June 2021.