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Alex Murdaugh’s lawyers want to make public statements about stolen money. FBI says Murdaugh lied

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Lawyers for convicted killer Alex Murdaugh want to release to the public statements he made to the FBI about what happened to million of dollars he stole from clients and his South Carolina law firm and who might have helped him steal the money.

Murdaugh’s attorneys made the request in a court filing Thursday after federal prosecutors asked a judge earlier this week to keep the statements secret. They argued that Murdaugh wasn’t telling the truth and that his plea deal on theft and other charges should be thrown out at a sentencing hearing scheduled for Monday.

Prosecutors think Murdaugh is trying to protect an attorney who helped him steal and that his assertion that more than $6 million in the stolen money went to his drug habit is not true. Releasing the statements could damage an ongoing investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

But Murdaugh’s attorneys said FBI agents can just black out any information they don’t want to make public while leaving the bulk of the statements available so people can judge the allegations themselves.

“To allow the Government to publicly accuse Murdaugh of breaching his plea agreement while also allowing the Government to hide all purported evidence supporting that accusation from the public would violate the public’s right to the truth,” attorneys Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian wrote.

Murdaugh, 55, is already serving life without parole in state prison after a jury found him guilty of murder in the shootings of his wife and younger son. He later pleaded guilty to stealing money from clients and his law firm in state court and 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 Murdaugh agreeing to a plea deal so his federal sentence would run at the same time as his state sentences.

Murdaugh’s lawyers said if prosecutors can keep the FBI statements secret, Monday’s court hearing in Charleston would have to be held behind closed doors, denying Murdaugh’s rights to have his case heard in public.

The FBI said it interviewed Murdaugh three times last year. After agents concluded he wasn’t telling the whole truth about his schemes to steal from clients and his law partners, they gave him a polygraph in October.

Agents said Murdaugh failed the test and federal prosecutors said that voided the plea deal reached in September where he promised to fully cooperate with investigators.

Prosecutors now want Murdaugh to face the stiffest sentence possible since the plea agreement was breached and 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 $12 million from clients by diverting settlement money into his own accounts or stealing from his family law firm. Federal investigators estimate at least $6 million of that has not been accounted for, although Murdaugh has said he spent extravagantly on illegal drugs after becoming hooked on opioids.

Investigators said that as Murdaugh’s financial schemes were about to be exposed in June 2021, he decided to kill his wife and son in hopes it would make him a sympathetic figure and draw attention away from the missing money. Paul Murdaugh was shot several times with a shotgun and Maggie Murdaugh was shot several times with a rifle outside the family’s home in Colleton County.

Murdaugh has adamantly denied killing them, even testifying in his own defense against his lawyers’ advice.

Federal prosecutors said Murdaugh did 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.

By JEFFREY COLLINS
Associated Press

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