Alleged Murdaugh conspirators appear in court, prosecutors push for trials
HAMPTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Five men who the state says are involved in crimes tied to Alex Murdaugh are facing charges across Lowcountry counties.
Most of them appeared in Hampton County Court Friday, where Prosecutor Creighton Waters went into a status hearing for each of the accused, looking to set trial dates. Waters called the white-collar crimes “systemic issues that need to see the light of day.”
Russell Laffitte and Curtis Eddie Smith’s cases will be continued. Cory Fleming, Jerry Rivers and Spencer Roberts have trial dates set for the latter half of 2023.
Russell Laffitte, the former Palmetto Bank CEO who is convicted of federal financial crimes, still faces similar financial charges at the state level. Laffitte has hired new legal representation since his federal trial. Laffitte is now represented by Mark Moore of Nexsen Pruet Law Firm and J. Todd Rutherford joined his defense shortly before the April 21 hearing. Rutherford is the democratic minority leader in the South Carolina State House of Representatives.
“Lawyers who also serve in the legislature, they have about 7 months of immunity and so we are really trying to push to get things scheduled in the fall because we don’t want to wait to the fall of 24 to start to resolve some of these cases, we believe the issues are too important,” says Prosecutor Creighton Waters.
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Laffitte’s lawyers argued that they are too new to his case and need time to look over the contents before setting a trial date. They also argue that it is not a practical use of the court’s time to put a trial on the books for their client who is expected to be sentenced for his federal conviction in June. The state pressed hard to set a trial date, but Judge Clifton Newman decided to continue the case and schedule another status update in the future.
Former lawyer Cory Fleming faces charges of breach of trust, money laundering, computer crimes, and criminal conspiracy. These charges span Beaufort and Hampton Counties. The Beaufort County charges are related to allegedly mishandling the settlement money of Murdaugh housekeeper Gloria Satterfield and her estate after her death. He has a trial date for charges in the Satterfield case in Beaufort County for Sept. 11.
Curtis Eddie Smith is the man Murdaugh says he asked to shoot him in the head for murder for hire and insurance fraud scheme. Smith faces charges of assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud after the shooting. He has also been indicted on four counts of money laundering, three counts of forgery, trafficking methamphetamine 10-28 grams.
Smith did not appear in the courtroom because of recent health issues. Citing his health issues, Judge Newman agreed to postpone setting any trial date. Smith’s lawyers also said they see a resolution that doesn’t require a trial date in the future.
“We’re optimistic both as to his cooperation - I think some of the underlying charges, there may be issues with, but at this point everyone is in agreement that there is a higher priority of defendants and whose cases need to be – or at least should be – addressed before we get to those issues that involved Eddie,” Jarrett Bouchette of Floyd Law Firm representing Smith says.
Jerry Rivers and Spencer Anwan Roberts were first linked to Murdaugh in August of 2022 when a state grand jury indicted the three with charges.
Rivers was originally indicted for obstruction of justice, accused of removing a cellphone from a scene SLED was investigating. He was released on bond, but since then has been charged with money laundering the state says they uncovered while investigating Murdaugh. Waters said a third indictment came down against Rivers on April 20 for possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. He has a trial date set for August 28th in Colleton County.
READ MORE: The Murdaugh Cases
Roberts is charged with obtaining a signature or property by false pretenses, money laundering, computer crimes and insurance fraud that the state believes is tied to Murdaugh. He has a trial date set for December 18th in Colleton County.
“As far as Mr. Roberts goes, as far as the state is concerned there are bigger fish to fry. We do need to address the white-collar charges against Alex himself, we do have Cory and we do have Russell. But over the course of these investigations as you look at the entirety of what is going on, all this dirty money that was flown through Alex, you uncover these things and you can’t ignore them,” Waters says.
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