COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (Court TV) — Embattled clerk of court Rebecca Hill, who served during Alex Murdaugh‘s murder trial, is now the subject of ethics investigations by the state, according to reports.
Murdaugh was sentenced to two life terms in prison for the murders of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, at their Lowcountry home. His attorneys have filed an appeal of his conviction, claiming that Hill inappropriately tampered with the jury by making comments to them, among other allegations.
Hill has denied any wrongdoing, and an affidavit filed with the state’s response to the defense motion for a new trial said she never made any comments to jurors about Murdaugh that could be construed as inappropriate. Prosecutors have argued that the jurors who have alleged Hill made the comments perhaps misremembered statements that the prosecution made in court during closing arguments.
In the state’s response, prosecutors said that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) had investigated the claims of jury tampering and said that none of the jurors who spoke with them “reported feeling any pressure or influence to reach their verdict.”
While the state’s Court of Appeals has granted Murdaugh’s motion to suspend his convictions for the murders and remanded the case to the circuit court for an evidentiary hearing, which has not been scheduled, it appears other investigations into Hill’s behavior are ongoing.
According to FITSNews, two active investigations into Hill are currently pending before the South Carolina State Ethics Commission (SCSEC), which could then be referred to SLED for prosecution if wrongdoing is found. FITSNews alleges to have obtained a copy of one ethics complaint and a detailed report on the second, in which Hill was accused of engaging in “unethical behavior” and using her position as Clerk of Court to promote her book, as well as a book by a local reporter.
“During the Murdaugh trial, clerk of court Becky Hill has unethically and potentially unlawfully used her political office to obtain and release confidential information,” the complaint, obtained by FITSNews, noted. “She has used her office and misallocated funds to promote her book and the book written by Michael DeWitt. Hill has neglected the office of clerk of court to take several trips to promote her book and to meet with Netflix to secure her position (in its documentary). Hill’s actions have displayed she is unfit to hold the office of clerk of court.”
Hill reached out to the SCSEC prior to releasing her book, entitled ‘Behind the Doors of Justice: The Murdaugh Murders.’ Court TV obtained a copy of the letter the SCSEC sent in response, in which the Commission listed the criteria for an informal opinion on the issue.
“To determine whether the proposed outside employment is permissible, analysis of the term ‘official capacity’ is required. … Here, you must consider the following questions:
(1) Does the opportunity for the activity arise as a result of your position as Clerk of Court?
(2) Is the subject matter of the work something within your official responsibility?
(3) Is this type of work something that the Clerk of Court’s Office would normally perofrm and for which you could receive expense reimbusement for by the Clerk of Court’s Office?
If the answers to ALL of these questions are yes, then wriitng the book would be within your official capacity and it woul dbe impermissible for you to receive compensation for writing the book. … If the answer to ANY of the above questions is no, then the work is not within your official capacity, and you may receive compensation for authoring hte book so long as you adhere to the Commission’s guidelines on off-duty employment.”
The complaint also alleges that Hill oversaw “guided tours of the Colleton County Courthouse during normal business hours” for “donations,” which she told participants would be used to “replace the front windows of the courthouse.”
FITSNews reported that the second complaint accuses Hill of misappropriating public funds from multiple accounts and misrepresenting the misappropriations to county officials — as many as seven accounts.
Hill’s son, Jeffrey Hill, has separately been arrested and charged with wiretapping after allegedly illegally recording conversations involving a deputy county administrator during Murdaugh’s murder trial. Sources close to the investigation told FITSNews that the wiretapping charges were tied to an effort to keep his mother informed about the investigations into her.
No criminal charges have been filed against Hill. When reached for comment, the State Ethics Commission told Court TV that it could neither confirm nor deny the existence of a complaint.