Audio of Alex Murdaugh’s jail call was illegally released by Richland County, attorneys say

COLOMBIA – Lawyers for disgraced Hampton County attorney Alex Murdaugh are trying to stop the Richland County Jail from releasing further recordings of their client’s jail calls after his conversations with relatives became public on a podcast last week.

Columbia attorneys Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian filed a federal lawsuit Feb. 28 to stop the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center from releasing further Murdaugh appeals. They allege that the facility and its acting director, D. Shane Kitchens, violated the federal wiretapping law that prohibits the publication of inmate phone calls in response to an open recording request.

The filing comes days after and the Murdaugh Murders podcast released the transcripts and audio of nearly a dozen Murdaugh calls they obtained from prison through an open recording request in January. Such tapes are rarely, if ever, made public before a defendant’s trial.

The released calls feature Murdaugh discussing finances and his ongoing legal issues with loved ones, including his brothers, sister and son, Buster. The audio offers a new window into the mindset of a man at the center of an unfolding murder mystery saga that has led to revelations of fraud and corruption in the often-overlooked southern tip of the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Murdaugh has spoken little publicly since the still unsolved double murders of his wife, Maggie, and son Paul in June. Hailing from a powerful Hampton County legal family, Murdaugh has been jailed in the Richland County Jail since mid-October as a wave of criminal investigations and civil lawsuits descend upon him.

His attorney’s license has been suspended and he likely faces disbarment and a long prison sentence amid charges of stealing millions of dollars in settlement amounts from his clients.

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The lawsuit filed Feb. 28 by his attorneys sparks a legal battle that could decide whether those inmate appeals are considered public records in South Carolina for years to come.

The tapes show nearly a dozen phone calls made by Murdaugh from prison between mid-October and December 9, including conversations between Murdaugh and his son, his brothers Randy and John Marvin Murdaugh, and his sister Lynn.

In the audio, Murdaugh urges his son to work hard to be reinstated to law school at the University of South Carolina. He repeatedly asks Buster Murdaugh if he has enough money to cover his living expenses, pledging to borrow money from his brother and pay it back when he gets out of prison.

Murdaugh speaks optimistically about his lawyers’ efforts to get him released from jail on bail, efforts that later proved fruitless. He speaks in vague terms about his finances and the various sources of money.

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He begs his relatives to send him and his fellow prisoners money to spend in the establishment’s canteen.

His brother, John Marvin, tells him that the family’s longtime law firm – Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Elzroth, Detrick – has dissolved and renamed Parker Law Group in the face of negative publicity.

John Marvin Murdaugh also reveals that the state Supreme Court has suspended the legal license of one of Murdaugh’s closest friends, Cory Fleming, in response to allegations that Fleming allowed Murdaugh to siphon off money owed to the estate of Murdaugh’s late housekeeper.

John Marvin Murdaugh points out that other people in Alex Murdaugh’s orbit are involved as facilitators and co-conspirators in his alleged schemes. He urges his brother to admit all the correct allegations and to clear the names of anyone who was not involved.

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These tapes should never have been released, say Murdaugh’s lawyers. In court filings, they reveal they sent the jail a cease and desist letter and called the Richland County attorney but received no response.

They asked a federal judge to bar the prison from releasing any further recordings “and to prevent any further exploitation of (Murdaugh’s) conversations for commercial gain.”

Griffin and Harpootlian asked a judge to award them attorney fees if they won.

The Post and Courier filed an official request for the tapes, along with other Murdaugh recordings that were provided to media outlets, on February 22. The county did not respond to the newspaper’s request.

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