Former Palmetto State Bank CEO, alleged Murdaugh conspirator Russell Laffitte testifies in own defense
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Russell Laffitte testified in his own defense in federal court Friday morning. A bank employee and former probate judge also testified.
Laffitte is accused of conspiracy to commit a variety of financial crimes to help Alex Murdaugh steal nearly $2 million of client money.
In his testimony, Laffitte says everything he did was a mistake and unintentional. He used an analogy to when someone does not realize their partner is cheating. “How did I miss all the signs they were right there in front of me. They were. But I missed them. As you heard over this trial, everybody did. And I wish I hadn’t,” Laffitte said.
Laffitte’s lawyers asked him “Did you help anyone steal any money?” to which he replied “Not intentionally. I absolutely did unintentionally.”
Laffitte testified that he and Murdaugh knew each other but ran in different social circles. “The Murdaugh family…they were the law in Hampton County. They were very influential is an understatement. When it comes to Hampton, they help the judges get elected, they help the sheriffs get elected. They had their fingers in it,” Laffitte said.
Laffitte described Murdaugh as boisterous and chaotic. He said when Murdaugh came into a bank or room he made demands and people did what he asked. “Every contact I had with him, now I suspect, what was the ulterior motive,” Laffitte said.
SPECIAL SECTION: The Murdaugh Cases
The defense listed all the time Laffitte had sat for interviews with SLED, the FBI, the attorney general and the Law Office of Discipline. Laffitte said over and over it was because he had nothing to hide.
Laffitte addressed some of the conservatorships. He said Murdaugh asked him to take on the role, and he agreed to help his friend. According to Laffitte, he would sign the spaces on documents Murdaugh put in front of him because he trusted the lawyer.
In managing Hannah and Alania Plyler’s accounts, Laffitte said every time he made a loan out of the accounts, he did it because he thought it was beneficial for the girls. A former probate judge testified a conservator is not required to consult on making a loan since it is expected to come back to the account, at maybe even a higher sum of money with interest. Laffitte said the loans to himself and Murdaugh would earn more money in interest. Laffitte also testified that he didn’t know Alania Plyler spent time living in her car until her testimony about during the trial.
As for checks Murdaugh brought to Palmetto State Bank and asked to be cut and applied to different accounts, Laffitte said he rarely looked at the memo line. He cut all the checks because Murdaugh came in with a story every time. Laffitte filed every one of the checks in probate court since he said he wasn’t hiding anything. Laffitte continued to say he never knew any money was stolen.
Laffitte says when Jeanne Seckinger from PMPED firm came to him and raised suspicions about Murdaugh, that was when he began to research. “I realized what it looked like, and I realized how it implicated me. I was nauseous, angry... He set me up right there,” Laffitte said of Murdaugh.
Throughout his testimony, Laffitte said how in hindsight he can see things he would not have done or would have done differently.
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