Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Convicted double murderer and disgraced ex-lawyer Alex Murdaugh was sentenced Tuesday to 27 years in South Carolina state prison for financial crimes, as part of a plea agreement.
During Tuesday's hearing, Judge Clifton Newman accepted Murdaugh's guilty plea, along with a plea deal that guarantees Murdaugh will serve at least 85%, or more than 22 years, of the sentence.
Murdaugh, 55, admitted to stealing more than $12 million over a 10-year period from clients, friends, family and his own law firm. In exchange, Murdaugh avoided a trial that was set to begin Tuesday in Beaufort.
"I am pleading guilty of my own free will because I am guilty ... and for other reasons," Murdaugh told U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in September. "I want to take responsibility for my actions. ... I want my son to see that I am taking responsibility."
Newman sentenced Murdaugh to 20 concurrent years in prison and an additional seven years to be served consecutively on a money laundering charge.
State prosecutor Creighton Waters called the deal a "unique and unprecedented sentence" on white collar crimes.
Murdaugh is currently serving two life sentences for the deaths of his wife and one of his sons after a jury found him guilty of the crimes in 2021. He was already awaiting trial for nearly 100 counts of financial fraud-related charges at the time.
Newman, who also presided over Murdaugh's murder trial, called the disgraced attorney "empty."
"You seem empty, I don't see anything," Newman told Murdaugh during Tuesday's sentencing hearing.
"It's just unimaginable -- unimaginable to me that you have done some of the things that you've done. Whether it's you or someone you become upon using drugs or through the process of just committing the crimes over and over over a period of years, I don't know. I don't know," the judge added.
Former clients and victims also were allowed to speak, including the adult son of Murdaugh's late housekeeper who died in an "trip and fall" accident at the Murdaugh's home in 2018.
"You lied, you cheated, you stole," Michael Satterfield said. "You betrayed me and my family and everybody else."
No members of Murdaugh's family attended Tuesday's hearing, including his surviving son Buster.
Before he was sentenced, Murdaugh made an hour-long statement to his family and his law firm, apologizing for the pain and humiliation while continuing to claim his innocence in the deaths of his wife, Maggie and son Paul.
"I am so sorry that I let each of you down and and I am so sorry that I humiliated you. I am so sorry that I destroyed our family's reputation with the terrible things that I have done," Murdaugh said.
"I am fully committed to trying to be a better person," he added. "I am going to try to do as much good as possible and help as many people as I can while incarcerated. I remain fully and wholeheartedly committed to finding a way to somehow make those who love me proud again, in some small way."