Judge denies Alex Murdaugh’s motion to rescind $4.3 million judgment in Satterfield case
HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh loses another legal battle in a case involving the family of his longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.
On Tuesday, Judge Bentley Price denied a motion by Murdaugh’s defense to rescind a $4.3 million confession of judgment awarded to the Satterfield family after Gloria’s death in 2018.
In an interview Wednesday, Satterfield family attorney Ronnie Richter said that like all Murdaugh matters, this one is more convoluted and complicated than it needed to be.
“Who else but Alex Murdaugh would even have the gall to pull something like this off?” he said.
For years, Murdaugh had asserted that Satterfield died after a trip-and-fall accident involving the family dogs at Moselle, his Colleton County estate.
However, in May he claimed to have “invented” that story about the dogs to obtain a $3.8 million settlement from Nautilus Insurance Company.
“‘I should not owe the Satterfields money now because that’s money that they were never actually entitled to, it was all a complete fraud,’” Richter said, paraphrasing the Murdaugh position in this case. “' But again, I got the money, I took the money, and I’m keeping the money.’ That was at the heart of the argument. Obviously, that’s a pretty offensive argument, and it didn’t go very far with Judge Price.”
Murdaugh’s defense also argued in its May 16 motion to vacate that the $4.3 million judgment does more harm to the victims of Murdaugh’s financial crimes than the convicted killer himself.
This is due to the fact that Murdaugh’s assets are currently handled by court-appointed receivers tasked with divvying his funds, his attorneys say.
Richter called this “stunningly insincere.”
“I can’t see in any legal proceeding where Alex Murdaugh has taken any action that was beneficial to anyone other than Alex Murdaugh,” he said. “For him to come forward now, saying that he’s compelled somehow by some pangs of conscious that he has to correct this out of concern for other victims is lunacy.”
In obtaining the judgment, the Satterfields agree to appear on equal footing with all other victims.
Because Murdaugh says he lied to obtain that stolen money, money the Satterfields never saw, he argues that there should not have been a claim in the first place, and the Satterfields are not entitled to what his defense team describes as a “symbolic” confession of judgment.
Murdaugh further states in a separate federal lawsuit brought by the insurance company, which seeks to recover the stolen money, that Nautilus should look to the Satterfields for the funds.
Richter believes that this week’s ruling by Price hurts Murdaugh’s defense in that lawsuit since he now has a standing order from a judge on his judgment to the Satterfields.
“I think he was practically without a defense in the Nautilus lawsuit anyway,” he said. “I think with the presence of his own judgment in the Satterfield case, I don’t know how you overcome that fact and convince a judge that ‘Yes, while I confessed in the Satterfield case that I stole that money, and I gave them a judgment, I shouldn’t be held liable in the Nautilus case. It’s a real legal cul-de-sac from which I don’t think he can escape.”
Murdaugh’s defense also contends that since Satterfield attorneys Richter and Eric Bland have recovered more than $7.5 million for their clients from other entities involved with Murdaugh’s fraud scheme, Nautilus should add the Satterfield sons as parties to that lawsuit.
The fundamental problem with this argument, according to Richter, is that none of the money they recovered came directly from the insurance company.
“The paths never crossed,” he said. “The Nautilus money goes into the black financial hole of Alex Murdaugh and it disappears. The money the Satterfields recover are from other sources.”
Though Richter said he had hoped that Murdaugh’s admission of fault with the confession of judgment would be the end of the issue, he believes this defeat will deliver some “peace and finality” to a family that has already been through so much.
“If there’s one theme that runs true for Alex Murdaugh, it’s that he is driven by self-preservation,” he said. “He does continue to victimize his victims.”
With all the legal wranglings in these matters, Richter said it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that real victims are impacted.
“Lawyers file papers in court all the time, and sometimes we’re blind to the consequences, but there are real-life people on the other side of these papers,” he said. “To have Alex Murdaugh, a year later after confessing, ‘I give up, you win, I lose. I confess judgment to you for $4.3 million.’ For him to come back, and say a year later, ‘I’d like to take that back,’ is hurtful to the people on the other side of that piece of paper.”
A judge has not ruled yet on the Murdaugh defense’s motion to add Satterfield’s sons to the Nautilus lawsuit.
A federal sentencing for Murdaugh accomplice Cory Fleming, who pleaded guilty in May for his role in the scheme to steal money from the Satterfield family, is scheduled for next week.
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