The Carolina Justice Report is a podcast from The Lovely Law Firm, located in Myrtle Beach, SC. The podcast features information, interviews and commentary on personal injury law, criminal law and community safety topics. The Lovely Law Firm represents clients in Myrtle Beach and surrounding areas with criminal and personal injury cases.
On this episode, attorneys Amy Lawrence and Sarah Austin discuss the recent verdict in the Russell Laffitte fraud trial. Laffitte, the CEO of Palmetto State Bank, was found guilty on all counts of fraud in the trial. The attorneys discuss how Laffitte admitted to doing all of the banking for PPE&D, a law firm, as well as for Alec Murdaugh’s personal accounts. Laffitte also acted as a conservator for several of Murdaugh’s clients, who were victims of Murdaugh stealing money through the bank. The trial lasted for about a week and a half, and new information came out during the trial about Laffitte involvement in the fraud and the efforts to cover it up. The attorneys also discuss the recording of a board meeting at Palmetto State Bank where it was discussed that Laffitte was stealing money and loaning it out of accounts, as well as the testimony of Janine, a sister-in-law of Laffitte, about the law firm’s efforts to cover up the missing money.
Information from Count On 2 News in Charleston November 22, 2022:
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Russell Laffitte, the former CEO of Palmetto State Bank and accused accomplice of Alex Murdaugh, was found guilty in a downtown Charleston courtroom on Tuesday.
Laffitte was found guilty on all six of the following counts:
The decision came after over 11 hours of deliberation, two alternate jurors being brought in, and nearly two weeks of witness testimony and review of evidence in this case. Laffitte faced a slew of federal charges – including bank fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy – all connected to alleged financial schemes involving disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, who presided over the case, charged the jury with making a decision on whether Laffitte should be found guilty on any of the charges just one day after both prosecutors and the defense made their closing arguments in the case.
Federal prosecutors have argued that Laffitte used his position at Palmetto State Bank to carry out the crimes. He was fired as CEO in early 2022.
Through his testimony, Laffitte admitted that he made mistakes, but reiterated that he believed he did nothing illegal as a banker over his nearly three-decade career at his family’s bank.
He also said that he failed to closely review checks brought to him by Murdaugh, but says he trusted Murdaugh as his attorney and directed the money as he was told to do so by Murdaugh.
After three hours into deliberations, the jury returned to the courtroom shortly before 1:30 p.m. with a note asking to see a transcript from Laffitte’s testimony. Judge Gergel, though, said that a full transcript was not ready for publishing but that a court reporter could read certain parts if necessary. The jury returned to deliberations moments later.
Around 3:00 p.m., the jury asked to listen again to a secret recording of a November 3 Palmetto State Bank board meeting made by Laffitte. The tape was played and the jury returned to deliberation.
Just before 6:30 p.m., the jury ordered pizza and continued working through dinner.
Around 7:45 p.m., the jurors brought four notes to the judge. Notes one and two were about a juror needing an antibiotic and feeling pressured to change his/her vote. Note three detailed a juror’s concerns about a “hostile juror room, a juror with prior jury experience who is fearful of being bullied, and a group of jurors who do not agree with the judge’s last charge.” Note four was about a juror who is experiencing anxiety.
Judge Gergel questioned whether it was necessary to bring in an alternate juror and start the process all over again. The jurors said that they did not want to come in on Wednesday and wanted to continue deliberating Tuesday night.
Around 8:30 p.m., two jurors were relieved and replaced with alternates. The jury then resumed deliberation.
Shortly before 9:30 p.m., court was called back into session and defense raised objection to the alternate juror who was brought in to relieve the juror with anxiety. Defense claimed that it should have been an hung jury.
Moments later, the jury confirmed that they had reached the verdict. Laffitte will be allowed to remain out on bond until his sentencing hearing.
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