Judge Lets Lawyer Who Tried to Stage His Own Murder Return to Rehab

·3 min read
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A South Carolina judge on Thursday set a $20,000 bond for Alex Murdaugh after the once high-powered attorney admitted to his role in a doomed plot to get himself killed so his son could collect $10 million in insurance money.

That allows the attorney, whose wife and other son were shot and killed at a family estate this spring and who has seen his sway over the South Carolina Lowcountry collapse spectacularly, to go back to rehab for drug addiction.

During a brief Thursday hearing, Hampton County Magistrate Judge Tonja Alexander said the bond was personal recognizance, meaning Murdaugh will be released on his promise to appear in court later and without having to pay any fines.

Murdaugh, 53, is facing multiple charges, including insurance fraud, after admitting he and his alleged former drug dealer, Curtis Edward Smith, conspired in a jaw-dropping assisted suicide and insurance scheme. Authorities say that Murdaugh orchestrated the plan, supplying Smith with the firearm that was used to shoot him and even slashing his tires to seemingly make the incident look more sinister.

On Thursday, a judge set Smith’s bond at $55,000.

Murdaugh attorney Dick Harpootlian argued his client had greatly suffered since the Sept. 4 incident—and suggested he came clean to authorities on Monday and was “attempting to make amends.”

“He is not a danger to a community. He is only a danger to himself,” Harpootlian said, reiterating that Murdaugh hatched “a plan to execute himself.”

While the South Carolina Attorney General’s office asked for Murdaugh to be fitted with a GPS monitoring device as part of his bond package, the judge denied the request and allowed Murdaugh to return to his rehab facility out of state. If Murdaugh leaves the facility, however, the judge stated that there will be a bench warrant for his arrest. Murdaugh was also forced to surrender his passport on Thursday, after prosecutors insisted that he is a flight risk.

The Murdaugh family exploded into the national spotlight this spring when Alex Murdaugh’s wife and son were found executed at the family estate—the latter of whom was facing charges in a fatal boating accident.

Shortly after the shooting incident this month, the attorney made a surprise announcement that he was quitting his family-founded law firm—Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, and Detrick (PMPED)—and was entering rehab to confront his decades-long opioid addiction.

Hours later, however, the firm released their own statement with a different storyline: Murdaugh had actually been forced out days earlier after they discovered that he had “misappropriated funds.” During a Wednesday interview with NBC's Today, Harpootlian appeared to admit that Murdaugh used embezzled funds to write checks for his opioid addiction.

The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division is now investigating the firm’s allegations. The same agency is also probing the death of a housekeeper on Murdaugh property three years ago.

“He has fallen from grace,” his lawyer added. “If anyone wants to see the fact of what opioid addiction does—you’re looking at it.”

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