Sparks flew and tears fell at the Beaufort County, South Carolina, Courthouse on Sept. 14 as disgraced attorney Cory Fleming begged Judge Clifton Newman for leniency while former Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte and convicted killer and disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh attempted to delay their own state trials for their alleged financial crimes.
Fleming pleaded guilty in state court in August to 23 different charges related to his financial crimes where he allegedly conspired with Murdaugh to defraud the estates of Gloria Satterfield and Hakeem Pinckney of more than $5 million dollars — approximately $4.3 million from Satterfield and $1 million from Pinckney.
Gloria Satterfield’s son, Tony, and her sister, Ginger Harriott, spoke to Newman to tell him that they had forgiven Fleming but trusted that Newman would mete out the proper degree of justice.
Attorney Justin Bamberg spoke on behalf of Pinckney family, telling the judge that his client was the type of person who would have loaned Fleming money if he had ever come to her with a need.
Prior to the Thursday hearing, Fleming had already pleaded guilty to a single federal charge, which netted him a 46-month sentence. When US Judge Richard Gergel handed down that sentence, he said he hoped that Newman would consider the federal government’s position when Fleming received his state sentence.
Newman’s response to that idea was loud and clear.
“I didn’t read Judge Gergel’s transcript. He’s in a different system, a different sovereignty. I’ve never deferred to a federal court to guide my sentence, as a state court judge,” Newman explained as Fleming stood shackled before him Thursday afternoon.
When it was all said and done, Fleming was sentenced to 10 years for his role in the Satterfield heist and another 10 years for stealing from Pinckney. The 10 years are to be served consecutively for an effective 20 years spent in state prison to be served following the end of the federal sentence.
Cory’s portion of the hearing, which was lengthy but orderly, stood in stark contrast to Murdaugh and Laffitte’s appearance.
Laffitte, who is now represented by Mark Moore and lawyer-legislator Todd Rutherford was in court to discuss his own trial in state court for the financial crimes he allegedly committed in concert with Murdaugh. Laffitte was found guilty during a federal trial in November 2022, but like Fleming, he also has state charges to answer for.
Moore argued that a state trial cannot be set pending the outcome of his federal appeal and told the judge that he had not had time to read the state grand jury transcripts in the case despite the fact that he and Rutherford were first retained to represent Laffitte in April.
Laffitte’s state trial is set for fall 2024, and he is scheduled to report to the federal bureau of prisons on Sept. 21 to begin serving his seven-year sentence.
Murdaugh, still represented by lawyer-legislator Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, was brought into court in shackles and was followed by a corrections officer who had him on a literal leash that connected to the shackle around his waist.
He was greeted warmly by lawyer-legislator Todd Rutherford, who sat on the first row behind the defense table.
Harpootlian attempted to delay setting a trial date for Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes because he and Griffin have cases pending for this fall, instead asking what the hurry is to get Murdaugh to trial.
It was Harpootlian who asked for a speedy trial when Murdaugh was charged in 2022 for murdering his wife and son, Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.
Newman declined to delay Murdaugh’s trial for his alleged financial crimes, instead setting a date of Nov. 27, the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Murdaugh faces an additional 22 charges in federal court and is expected to enter a guilty plea in federal court on Sept. 21.
You can get all the details in True Sunlight Episode 16.
Contact Beth Braden
Beth Braden is an award-winning journalist whose mastery of the deep dive is evident in her work.
In addition to Braden’s experience writing about local government, crime and courts, and engaging features from her home state of Tennessee, her byline appears on several internationally-known websites. She is passionate about communicating complex information in an easy-to-understand manner and loves to pore over public records.
Braden joined Luna Shark Media in 2023 armed with a love of truth as she seeks out data from the darkest places, drags it into the light, and provides illuminating analysis. In her spare time, she enjoys quilting, strange museums, and good cups of coffee.
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