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:
- Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud
- Bank fraud
- Wire Fraud
- Misapplication of bank funds (x3)
The decision comes 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., the court was called back into session and the defense raised an objection to the alternate juror who was brought in to relieve the juror with anxiety. The defense claimed that it should have been a hung jury.
Moments later, the jury confirmed that they had reached the verdict.