The attorney for Curtis Smith said in an exclusive interview on TODAY Thursday that his client is being "set up" by prominent South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh because Murdaugh is "a drug addict who is going through horrific withdrawals."
Smith, 61, was arrested on Sept. 14 and now faces multiple charges, including assisted suicide, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and insurance fraud, for what police said was a failed suicide-for-hire plot involving Murdaugh.
Investigators said Murdaugh, 53, conspired to have Smith shoot him on the side of a rural road as part of an insurance fraud scheme that would benefit Murdaugh's son.
Smith and his lawyer, Jonny McCoy, disputed the allegations in two conversations with Craig Melvin on TODAY Thursday.
"I think that he's being set up by a person who is a drug addict who is going through horrific withdrawals, 20 years' opioids use, and I think that he is doing exactly what people with addict behavior do," McCoy said on TODAY Thursday. "And that is he tried to turn himself into a victim, and he tried to turn himself into a hero."
Murdaugh has been charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, and filing a false police report.
He told authorities he was shot in the head, and Murdaugh's attorneys have said Murdaugh wanted to end his life so that his surviving son could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy.
Smith told TODAY he wasn't the triggerman in the Sept. 4 incident on a rural road in Hampton County, S.C.
"I didn't shoot him," Smith said on TODAY. "I'm innocent. If I'd have shot him, he'd be dead. He's alive."
Smith, who also faces unrelated charges of methamphetamine and marijuana possession, said he had no idea what Murdaugh's plans were when he agreed to meet Murdaugh, whom he described as a close friend, on the remote road.
Smith told TODAY that Murdaugh showed up to the meeting carrying a gun.
"And he’s standing like this. He said, 'You gonna shoot me?' I said, 'No,'" Smith said. "He said, 'Well, you've got to do it.' And he made this move like this, and I just grabbed his arm.
"I shoved (the gun) up behind him, between me and him. And it went off."
Smith said he was "1,000%" sure that the bullet did not hit either of them.
Murdaugh's lawyers, who declined to comment to TODAY, maintain that Murdaugh suffered a head wound. The Hampton County Sheriff's Office incident report initially said Murdaugh didn't have any visible injuries, but a corrected version released shortly after says there was a visible injury. Murdaugh himself called 911 after the incident and said he’d been shot in the head while fixing a flat tire.
The attorneys for Murdaugh allege Smith took advantage of Murdaugh as he was in the grips of an opioid addiction and grieving the unsolved murders of his wife and 22-year-old son in June.
"He was in a dark, dark dark place and wanted to help his son, the remaining son, Buster, in any way he could, and he thought this was the only way he could leave him with anything," Murdaugh's attorney, Dick Harpootlian, said on TODAY last month.
According to his lawyers, Murdaugh recently finished phase one of treatment at an out-of-state drug rehab facility.
The alleged shooting involving Smith occurred one day after Murdaugh resigned from his law firm amid accusations of financial misconduct that are now being investigated.
Meanwhile, the murders of Murdaugh's wife and son remain unsolved.
Jim Griffin, another attorney for Murdaugh, told Fox Carolina News on Wednesday that Murdaugh is a person of interest in the shooting deaths of his wife and son, whose bodies were found near dog kennels on the family’s hunting property in Colleton County.
But Griffin maintained that Murdaugh had no connection to their deaths. He has not been charged in the case.
“He didn’t do it. I feel strongly that he didn’t do it,” Griffin told Fox Carolina. “Nobody wants to solve these murders as much as Alex.”