Alex Murdaugh will stay in jail for the foreseeable future.
State Judge Alison Lee on Tuesday denied a motion by Murdaugh’s attorneys to sharply reduce Murdaugh’s bond from the current $7 million.
“After considering all of the information provided, this Court finds that the current bond is reasonable to assure his appearance in court as defendant remains a flight risk and potential danger to himself and community,” Lee wrote.
Jim Griffin, one of Murdaugh’s attorneys, had this reaction: “We received the order. We’re disappointed in the result, but we respect the judge’s decision.”
On Dec. 13, Lee set a $7 million surety bond for Murdaugh after hearing evidence from State Grand Jury prosecutor Creighton Waters that Murdaugh not only posed a danger to himself and others, but also that his alleged crimes were substantial enough to warrant such a bond.
It was one of the highest bonds in memory ever given a defendant in South Carolina.
Murdaugh, 53, whose license to practice law was suspended last September, is charged with a host of financial crimes involving stealing money from his clients and his former law firm. He has also been described as a “person of interest” in last June’s unsolved slayings of his wife, Maggie, and his son Paul.
“This should be a clarion call for Alex to realize that, most likely, he is going to remain in jail pending the trial of the charges that are asserted against him,” said Eric Bland, an attorney for the sons of Murdaugh’s former housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield.
Murdaugh is charged with stealing millions that were owed to the two boys.
“Alex should start thinking long and hard in making a decision whether he needs to cooperate with the authorities and answer the question of — one, where did the money go, two, why did he need this much money, and three, did he have assistance from others?”
Lee’s decision came one week after a 90-minute hearing in which Murdaugh’s attorneys, Dick Harpootlian and Griffin, requested that she reduce Murdaugh’s bond from $7 million to an amount far lower.
Harpootlian and Griffin argued in a motion earlier this month that Murdaugh had less than $10,000 in his bank accounts and could not pay the bond amount.
“Mr. Murdaugh does not have seven million dollars or anything close to that amount,” the motion said. “Mr. Murdaugh is a man who cannot pay his phone bill.”
That hearing, held remotely, featured a plea from a S.C. Highway Patrol trooper who hired Murdaugh to represent him after he was hit by a car. He said Murdaugh stole $100,000 in compensation that was due him.
Moore’s statements illustrated how Murdaugh, a well-respected lawyer from a family of powerful state prosecutors, took advantage of his trusting clients and friends.
“He treated me very nice, and he stole every dime I had,” Lt. Thomas Moore told the judge.
Moore said if Murdaugh was released on bond, he would fear for his life. “Would I be surprised if he or somebody related to him showed up at my house with a gun? Absolutely not,” Moore said.
Under the terms of Lee’s bond, called a surety bond, Murdaugh must put up the entire $7 million before being freed.
Murdaugh remains incarcerated in Richland County’s Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, where he has been since October.