Murdaugh team seeks 'level playing field' as Russell Laffitte is struck with new charges

  • In US
  • 2022-09-27 10:01:46Z
  • By Greenville News

The high-profile criminal cases against disbarred South Carolina attorney Richard "Alex" Murdaugh and former Palmetto State banker Russell Lucius Laffitte continue to move forward as trial dates loom.

Attorneys for Murdaugh, who is facing two murder charges as well as more than 90 financial and drug-related charges, have filed a new pretrial motion asking for more legal powers as they prepare for an expected January 2023 trial date.

Murdaugh's legal team confers during Monday's hearing in Colleton County.  

Laffitte, meanwhile, has a trial date set for Nov. 8 in federal court in Charleston. He's accused of aiding Murdaugh in an alleged decade-long, multi-county crime spree, and he was struck with a new round of federal charges last week.

Here is the latest on the criminal cases that have made international headlines from South Carolina.

Alleged Murdaugh accomplice served with more federal indictments

On Sept. 20, a federal grand jury in Charleston unsealed a third round of indictments against Laffitte.

The eight charges included more counts of bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and misapplication of bank funds.

Laffitte was first indicted in federal court on July 20, then a superseding indictment was handed down Aug. 17. This third wave of charges is a second superseding indictment.

Laffitte was arraigned on the new charges Sept. 23 in U.S. District Court in Charleston, where he pleaded not guilty as with the original charges.

On Monday, Laffitte's attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the federal government's second superseding indictment, citing what they claim are errors in 16 paragraphs of the indictment. The motion does not ask for previous charges to be dismissed, however. A hearing has not been scheduled for that motion.

Laffitte, who had been a fourth-generation banker in a financial institution his family founded, is accused of using his position as Palmetto State Bank CEO to aid Murdaugh in stealing from his legal clients while serving as Murdaugh's hand-picked personal representative and conservator for those clients.

Three indicted:Former Hampton Co. banker Laffitte indicted; more indictments for Murdaugh, Fleming

Indictments:Alex Murdaugh Case: Ex-Hampton banker struck with lawsuit, more federal indictments

Laffitte was terminated from that position at the bank in January 2022.

The former banker is also facing State Grand Jury charges for the same alleged crimes, with no state trial date set.

Out on bond, Laffitte is on location monitoring that restricts him to Hampton and Allendale counties unless he is going to court in Charleston or has court approval to travel elsewhere.

Murdaugh defense asks for more legal power to 'level the playing field'

Murdaugh will be facing double murder and weapons charges in Colleton County court for the June 2021 shooting deaths of his wife, Maggie, and son Paul.

A trial date requested for January 2023 has yet to be approved by the South Carolina Courts Administration.

On Sept. 23, Murdaugh's criminal defense team, which includes noted attorneys Richard Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, filed a motion in Colleton County General Sessions Court asking the court for the authority to issue "subpoena duces tecum" as they work to prepare Murdaugh's defense. While a typical subpoena is a court order requiring the attendance of a witness to testify at a particular time and place, a subpoena duces tecum is an order requiring a witness to bring documents, materials or other items under their control that they may be bound by law to produce into evidence.

From left, Jim Griffin and Richard Harpootlian discuss the Alex Murdaugh case with prosecutor Creighton Waters in Colleton County court.
From left, Jim Griffin and Richard Harpootlian discuss the Alex Murdaugh case with prosecutor Creighton Waters in Colleton County court.  

Murdaugh's attorneys contend that, if granted that authority, they can meet with witnesses and inspect subpoenaed materials in advance to avoid unnecessary delays to the pretrial and trial process.

Not only would this overall authority prevent the defense from having to come before the court each time it wishes to subpoena materials, the motion says, the requests for those materials would not have to be brought out in open court.

"Requiring the defendant to make public filings for each subpoena duces tecum will unnecessary expose the defense's trial strategy and subject the recipient of any subpoena to extensive media attention," Murdaugh's motion states.

The motion also contends that, since the state Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the cases against Murdaugh, continues to build its case by obtaining search warrants and issuing grand jury subpoenas, granting this power to the defense would level "the playing field" with the state.

As attorneys on both sides of the bench prepare for trial, Murdaugh remains in jail in Richland County on a $7 million bond he has been unable to meet.

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Murdaugh team seeks 'level playing field'; Laffitte faces new charges


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