US lawyer gets 40 years for stealing from clients, firm

For maybe the last time, Alex Murdaugh, in a prison jumpsuit instead of the suit he used to wear, shuffled into a courtroom in South Carolina and was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison.

Murdaugh was punished — this time in federal court — for stealing from clients and his law firm. The 55-year-old disbarred lawyer is already serving a life sentence without parole in a state prison for killing his wife and son.

Federal agents had recommended a sentence from 17-and-a-half to just under 22 years.

Murdaugh also pleaded guilty in state court to financial crimes and was ordered to spend 27 years in prison. The federal sentence will run at the same time as his state prison term and he likely will have to serve all 40 years if his murder convictions are overturned on appeal.

US District Judge Richard Gergel said he sentenced Murdaugh on Monday to a harsher punishment than suggested because he stole from "the most needy, vulnerable people," including a client who became a quadriplegic after a crash, a state trooper who was injured on the job, and a trust fund intended for children whose parents were killed in a wreck.

Murdaugh stole from people who "placed all their problems and all their hopes" on him, Gergel said.

The 22 federal counts are the final charges outstanding for Murdaugh, who three years ago was an established lawyer negotiating multimillion-dollar settlements in tiny Hampton County, where members of his family served as elected prosecutors and ran the area's premier law firm for nearly a century.

Murdaugh will also have to pay nearly $US9 million ($A14 million) in restitution.

Murdaugh again apologised to his victims at his sentencing Monday, saying he felt "guilt, sorrow, shame, embarrassment, humiliation." He offered to meet with victims so they can say what they want to say and "more closely inspect my sincerity."

"There's not enough time and I don't possess a sufficient vocabulary to adequately portray to you in words the magnitude of how I feel about the things I did," Murdaugh said.

Murdaugh blamed nearly two decades of addiction to opioids and said he was proud he has been clean for 937 days.

Murdaugh was convicted a year ago of killing his younger son Paul with a shotgun and his wife, Maggie, with a rifle. While he has pleaded guilty to dozens of financial crimes, he adamantly denies he killed them and testified in his own defence. There will be years of appeals in the murder cases.

The case has captivated true crime fans, spawning dozens of podcast episodes and thousands of social media posts.