Alex Murdaugh Tells Judge His Problems Stem From Opiate Addiction as Bond Set at $7M

A judge set a $7 million bond for South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh, who faces nearly 50 counts of charges related to an alleged scheme to steal more than $6.2 million in settlement money and other funds from his clients. Murdaugh spoke publicly for the first time in months during a virtual hearing Monday, telling Circuit Judge Alison Renee Lee that some of his problems stem from a 20-year opiate addiction.

Murdaugh's legal saga began after his wife and one of his sons were found shot dead in June outside their home. In addition to the settlement-stealing scheme accusations, he faces separate charges for an alleged attempt to have himself shot and killed in September so his surviving son could receive a $10 million life insurance payout.

In order for Murdaugh to be eligible for house arrest with electronic monitoring, he must pay all of the $7 million, receive counseling and be randomly drug tested, the judge said. The bond was higher than the recommendations of prosecutors, who said he should either pay $6.2 in line with the money he allegedly stole or $4.7 to reflect about $100,000 for each count.

Defense attorneys, who requested a maximum $200,000 bond, indicated that they would ask the judge to reevaluate her order.

"He can't post a $7 million (bond). He couldn't post a $700,000 (bond)," said defense attorney Dick Harpootlian. "He has no money."

Murdaugh Bond Set
A judge set a $7 million bond for South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh, who faces nearly 50 counts of charges related to an alleged scheme to steal more than $6.2 million in settlement money and other funds from his clients. Above, Murdaugh awaits the beginning of his bond hearing in the Richland Judicial Center in Columbia, South Carolina, on October 19, 2021. Lewis M. Levine/AP Photo

Murdaugh described to the judge his frame of mind leading up to the events of the day where he allegedly tried to have himself killed. He said he had met with his brother and another law firm partner to confess a 20-year-long hidden addiction and to "discuss my actions" in the 24 hours before the attempted killing and was going through opiate withdrawal at the time.

The firm announced its own investigation into missing funds shortly after Murdaugh said he was going into rehab in September.

Murdaugh said he knew he had tarnished his family's legacy, but that he had improved since September and had not used opiates in more than three months.

"My head is on straighter, I'm thinking clearer than I have in a long, long time," Murdaugh said. "I want to deal with these charges appropriately and head-on. I want to repair as much of the damage that I've done as I can. I want to repair as many of the relationships as I can."

Monday's bond hearing centered on charges handed down by a grand jury totaling 48 counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent; computer crimes; money laundering and forgery. Prosecutors said that among Murdaugh's victims in the schemes dating back to 2015 were family friends, an undocumented immigrant and a car wreck victim.

Investigators say Murdaugh used a fraudulent bank account he created with a similar name to a company that handles legal settlements. According to indictments, he then used the money to pay bank overdraft fees, credit card payments, checks written to friends and family and other items.

Murdaugh's father, grandfather and great-grandfather were prosecutors in tiny Hampton County, where every road leading to the county seat is two lanes. The family's law firm, located in the most impressive building in town after the courthouse, has spent a century winning multimillion-dollar verdicts.

His legal troubles began after his wife, Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, were found shot to death at the family's estate in June. No one has been charged in their deaths and Murdaugh's lawyers said he has denied having anything to do with their killings.

Running parallel to the criminal court saga is a growing number of lawsuits. Murdaugh's former law firm has sued him, as have the sons of his dead housekeeper, who died after a fall at one of the family's homes in 2018. The Murdaugh family also faces lawsuits surrounding a 2019 boat crash in which Paul Murdaugh was charged with boating under the influence causing death.

On Monday, attorneys for both Murdaugh and deceased housekeeper Gloria Satterfield's's sons announced during the bond hearing that some victims were nearing resolution with Murdaugh, who is also accused of stealing insurance money meant for Satterfield's sons.

The lawyers for both Murdaugh and Satterfield's family said Murdaugh had agreed to a $4.3 million judgment in the case, subject to the approval of court-appointed receivers who now control his assets.

"The family is pleased that Mr. Murdaugh has finally expressed his apologies and has taken a positive step toward resolution by agreeing to confess judgment to Gloria's sons," Satterfield lawyer Ronnie Richter said in a statement.

Murdaugh has been jailed since October on charges of stealing insurance money from Satterfield's sons.

Circuit Judge Clifton Newman again denied bond in November, citing Murdaugh's considerable financial resources and mental instability. A spokesperson for the state Attorney General's Office said that means Murdaugh will remain at a Richland County detention center regardless of the outcomes of other bond hearings.

His attorneys have appealed that no bond decision to the state Supreme Court.

He could face more than 500 years in prison if convicted of all the charges, which are all felonies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Murdaugh Legal issues
Alex Murdaugh spoke publicly for the first time in months during a virtual hearing Monday, telling Circuit Judge Alison Renee Lee that some of his problems stem from a 20-year opiate addiction. Above, Murdaugh sits during a bond hearing September 16, 2021, in Varnville, South Carolina. Mic Smith/AP Photo