Former South Carolina banker Russell Laffitte was found guilty on all six federal counts of financial fraud after nearly 11 hours of deliberation.

But the final unanimous verdict from the jury of seven men and five women didn’t come without some drama, after two last-minute jurors were sent home and two of the three alternates were chosen by Judge Richard Gergel to take their seats. .

The trial took place over three weeks, as government and defense lawyers presented more than 300 exhibits from spreadsheets, canceled checks, charts and bank statements to the jury.

Laffitte, 51, was found guilty of six charges: one of conspiring with Alex Murdaugh to commit numerous acts of wire and bank fraud; one count of bank fraud; one count of wire fraud; and three counts of misapplication of bank funds, alleging that he illegally embezzled more than $1.8 million in bank money on Murdaugh’s behalf.

The former banker is the first person convicted of a crime related to the ongoing Murdaugh saga. Murdaugh also faces numerous financial charges and charges for the murders of his wife and child in June 2021.

Only twice did jurors emerge from their deliberating room on Tuesday, at one point to ask the court to provide them with a transcript of Laffitte’s five-hour testimony for their review, and again to listen to a previously played 10-minute recording during the process.

Gergel only allowed jurors to hear the short recording, saying a transcript of Laffitte’s full testimony, which concluded the day before, was not yet available. But the judge offered to have the clerk re-read any specific testimony the jury requested, though the jurors never did.

But after nine hours of deliberation, around 8pm on Tuesday, the jury ran into a problem.

First, a juror sent Gergel a note that mentioned a scheduling conflict and felt pressured to change their vote. Then more notes followed, this time about a “hostile” juror who refused to engage in deliberations and refused to follow some of the judge’s instructions, resulting in a private meeting with Gergel.

The various concerns were serious, Gergel said.

“We don’t allow people to serve on juries who don’t follow the court’s instructions,” he said.

Finally, after meeting with the two jurors separately, Gergel announced that he had excused both: one who needed to take an antibiotic and another who said he suffered from anxiety and could no longer serve as a juror.

The juror’s “hostile” situation had also been resolved, Gergel said, without going into detail.

“We are in virgin territory,” Gergel said on Tuesday. “I myself have tried 100 cases and been on the bench for 13 years. And I’ve never seen anything like it.”

At about 8.30pm on Tuesday, the jury – this time with two out of three alternates – returned to deliberating.

Once the juror switch was made, the jury reached a verdict in less than an hour.

Back in court, Laffitte’s defense team raised an objection to one of the juror’s deputies, but Gergel said he believed he had no choice as that juror indicated he was unable to continue.

“He was shaking as he spoke” and clearly unable to serve as a juror, Gergel said.

Gergel said he spoke to the two fired jurors with a court reporter and his deputy, and had solid documentation as to why he made his decision.

Asked after the verdict whether there was any doubt about a guilty verdict, Chief Prosecutor Emily Limehouse said, “of course.”

“But we’re glad they came back with the verdict we believe the evidence required, that he was guilty on all counts,” he told reporters outside the courthouse on Tuesday evening.

Defense attorneys and Laffitte, who left the courthouse with his family, did not comment further after the verdict. The defense is likely to appeal.

Laffitte will remain free on bail until his sentencing, which has not been scheduled.

Limehouse told reporters the government had no sentencing recommendations at this time.

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