A former South Carolina attorney and longtime friend of Alex Murdaugh was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to state charges related to helping the convicted murderer steal millions of dollars from his clients.
Cory Fleming, 54, was sentenced in a Beaufort County courtroom after pleading guilty to the charges last month over his involvement in scheming with Murdaugh to steal from two clients Murdaugh referred to him.
Most of the stolen funds were from an insurance settlement Fleming helped secure for the estate of Gloria Satterfield, the Murdaugh family housekeeper who died after a “trip-and-fall” accident at the Murdaugh home in 2018. An investigation into her death has been reopened.
Fleming is also charged with stealing from the family of Hakeem Pinckney, who was severely injured in a car crash in 2009 and died in 2011. Prosecutors have said the settlement money that was supposed to go to the Pinckney and Satterfield families instead went to a fake bank account and was used by Murdaugh and, in some cases, Fleming.
Judge Clifton Newman, who handed down Fleming’s sentence, said the disbarred attorney must “suffer the consequences of (his) actions,” while noting Fleming’s victims were “vulnerable people” who trusted him as their attorney.
Fleming is currently serving a federal sentence of three years and 10 months after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, pledging in exchange to work with state and federal prosecutors, according to his plea agreement. His sentence on the state charges is far longer.
He will likely spend more than 15 additional years behind bars in a state prison after he finishes serving his federal sentence, which was set to run concurrently with the state sentence.
“Today, I offer this court no excuses. There are no excuses. I place the blame for my actions on my shoulders, nobody else’s,” said Fleming, handcuffed and wearing a striped prison jumpsuit, as he read his statement to the court. “I have a profound and deep disappointment in myself. It is a very difficult and constant feeling I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
Fleming’s attorney requested Newman issue a sentence that directly matched his client’s federal sentence, but the judge sentenced him to back-to-back 10-year sentences on the state charges – a decade for the crimes against the Satterfield family and an additional 10 to be served after that for the crimes against the Pinckney family.
“The foundation of our justice system remains strong,” attorneys for the Satterfield family, Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter, said after the sentencing. “The Satterfield’s feel like justice was done in connection with Cory Fleming’s crimes committed against the estate of Gloria Satterfield and her sons.”
Murdaugh, a disbarred personal injury attorney, is appealing his conviction for murdering his wife and grown son. However, last week his attorneys requested that appeal be suspended as they seek a new trial for Murdaugh based on their allegations of jury tampering. The court has not made any decisions on that motion for a new trial.
Murdaugh is currently serving two life sentences in a South Carolina state prison.
Murdaugh is scheduled to appear before a federal court judge next week, where he is expected to plead guilty to nearly two dozen charges related to fraud and financial crimes, pending a cooperation agreement, according to Murdaugh’s defense team.
Separately, Murdaugh is also set to stand trial in November on the first of 101 state charges, with victims’ alleged total losses amounting to almost $8.8 million, according to prosecutors.
The state pointed to these crimes – which Murdaugh admitted to while on the stand during his murder trial – as evidence of his deceit, calling on members of his former law firm to testify about how they had started to uncover his lies and theft in the months before the murders.
Wearing an orange South Carolina Department of Corrections jumpsuit, Murdaugh on Thursday once again stood before Newman – who, in March, handed down the two life sentences he’s currently serving – to learn the trial date for the state financial crimes he faces.
Murdaugh’s attorneys eventually agreed to a November 27 trial in Beaufort County, for the charges associated with the millions of dollars in stolen insurance settlement funds from Satterfield’s estate.