Ethics complaint alleges that clerk involved in Alex Murdaugh trial spent substantial sums on bonuses, meals, and gifts

South Carolina officials have brought forth a total of 76 ethics violation charges against the court clerk responsible for overseeing the Alex Murdaugh murder trial in Columbia.

The allegations, spanning 25 pages, point out various actions committed by former Colleton County Clerk of Court, Becky Hill. According to the claims, Hill allegedly allowed a photo of Murdaugh in a holding cell to be taken for the purpose of promoting her book on the trial. Additionally, she is accused of awarding herself bonuses and misusing county funds to purchase numerous lunches for her staff, prosecutors, and a vendor.

According to a recent complaint filed by the South Carolina Ethics Commission, Hill made a deal with a documentary maker to use the county courtroom. However, it was later revealed that her book on the trial contained plagiarized passages, which she admitted to.

The commission is scheduled to conduct a hearing in December, resembling a trial, regarding the allegations, unless Hill and her attorney reach a settlement before that time. In the event that the case proceeds, Hill may be required to repay expenses and face substantial fines, potentially totaling thousands of dollars or more. Furthermore, if the commission determines that Hill has violated any laws, they have the authority to refer the matter to prosecutors for further action.

The State Law Enforcement Division confirmed on Thursday that a criminal investigation is underway to determine if Hill tampered with the Murdaugh jury or misused her office.

Hill stepped down from her position in March, which marked the final year of her four-year term. She cited the intense public scrutiny surrounding Murdaugh’s trial as well as her desire to spend more time with her grandchildren as the reasons for her resignation. As of now, she has not publicly addressed the ethics allegations, and her lawyer has not responded to inquiries made on Thursday.

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Murdaugh stood trial in Colleton County last year and was found guilty of murdering his wife and younger son. This gripping case delved into themes of power, danger, money, and privilege, with the added complexity of an attorney whose family had held sway over their small South Carolina county for almost a hundred years.

Murdaugh is currently appealing his conviction and the sentence of life without parole. He alleges that Hill attempted to sway the jurors’ decision, displaying bias against him due to her book. Additionally, Murdaugh is serving a lengthy prison term for confessing to embezzling millions of dollars from settlements intended for clients who endured severe injuries or fatalities, as well as from his family’s law firm.

The judge initially denied the appeal, expressing doubts about Hill’s truthfulness regarding her interactions with jurors and suggesting that she may have been swayed by the allure of fame.

Hill was accused of engaging in unethical behavior by using county funds to purchase meals for prosecutors and subsequently reimbursing herself. According to the allegations, she spent $543.89 on food and alcoholic beverages for a farewell lunch organized for an employee within a neighboring prosecutor’s office.

The allegations do not mention any spending for public defenders or defense attorneys.

According to the complaint, Hill allegedly awarded herself nearly $10,000 in bonuses using federal funds designated for enhancing child support collection. The complaint further highlights the lack of strict guidelines regarding the expenditure of these funds.

The complaint stated that the former clerk misused public funds on numerous occasions. She utilized the funds to purchase meals for her staff, family members, judges, court employees, and various others on 36 separate occasions. Additionally, she reimbursed herself for gifts bought for jurors and her staff on Valentine’s Day, as well as for her employees on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Easter.

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The expenses reported by ethics officials consisted of $481 spent on a 50th birthday celebration for a staff member, as well as purchases of dog food, bones, and a pet bed for another individual.

According to the complaint, Hill is accused of inappropriately spending almost $20,000 of county money.

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