Former South Carolina Republican legislator Chris Corley pleaded guilty on Monday to a felony domestic violence charge stemming from a violent 2016 attack on his wife. The attack took place just after Christmas in the presence of the couple’s children, a fact that caused Corley to originally be indicted on aggravated domestic violence charges. In South Carolina, aggravated domestic violence is the harshest category of such crimes (carrying with it a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison), and the charge can be utilized in cases when domestic abuse takes place in the presence of children.
The 36-year-old, whose biggest political claim to fame was arguably his staunch defense of the controversial Confederate flag, had just been re-elected to a second term when he brutally attacked his wife on December 26, 2016. As CBS News reports, former Republican South Carolina legislator Chris Corley and his wife were fighting about his infidelity when the domestic violence occurred.
At the time of the domestic incident, Corley reportedly bit his wife on her nose until it bled, beat her with his hands and fists, and even threatened to kill her with a gun he was pointing at her. A young child, reportedly the Corleys 8-year-old daughter, was heard on a 911 call pleading with the former South Carolina legislator to stop brutalizing their mother.
“Just stop, Daddy. Just stop. Daddy, why are you doing this?”
According to his wife, Chris Corley only stopped brutally abusing in response to their children’s pleas and her bleeding. South Carolina authorities say that Corley had taken his wife’s phone to prevent her from calling the police. However, she was able to contact 911 services using her Apple Watch.
In the midst of the horrific attack, former Republican lawman Chris Corley also threatened to kill himself and his wife. At some point, she was able to escape the attack and take herself and the children across the street to her mother’s home.
Since her husband’s arrest and the felony domestic violence charges that followed, Chris Corley’s wife/victim has expressed her displeasure with the felony charges levied against him, blaming his unthinkable holiday season attack on “undiagnosed bipolar disorder.” According to a statement written by Heather Corley, which was reported to be read to Judge Doyet A. Early III in court, Chris Corley had been suffering from mental health issues for at least a year before brutally beating her and threatening her life in front of their kids.
She added that it was never her intention for the Confederate flag-loving Republican South Carolina lawmaker to have his life and career compromised by felony charges.
“None of this was my intention. I only wanted my husband to get the help he needed. We sought medical help for his mental state for one year. As the year progressed, it became increasingly worse. He has since been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and the medications he was taking, which were prescribed, were increasing and prolonging manic stages which caused his behavior to become erratic.”
After Chris Corley’s arrest, his wife reportedly begged the District Attorney to either drop the charges against him or reduce them to a misdemeanor, or something that would allow him to keep practicing law when all was said and done. According to Mrs. Corley, she and her three children depend on the income Chris provided.
“I was desperate to save my family. My children were crying every night.”
Chris Corley had originally expressed an intent to plead not guilty. However, it was reported early Monday that the former South Carolina Republican legislator was planning to change his plea to guilty.
As ABC 4 News reports, former legislator Chris Corley did just that on Monday. While pleading guilty to first-degree felony domestic violence, a crime that carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence, the South Carolina lawmaker and Confederate flag fan apologized to his daughter after hearing her frantic voice in the 911 call for the first time.
“It’s a very difficult thing for a father to hear. I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to make that up to her.”
Heather Corley also publicly claimed that her husband had been “coerced into this plea” after the AG’s office subpoenaed the couple’s 8-year-old daughter to testify against her father.
Ultimately, Chris Corley was sentenced to just five years probation (along with a six-year suspended prison sentence) for his admitted act of horrific domestic violence against his wife and perpetuated in front of his daughter. As part of his probation, he was ordered to complete 100 hours of community service as well as to submit to anger management classes.
According to his wife, he has been receiving treatment for his bipolar disorder since January, and she also said, “we have our Chris back.”
Ironically, prior to being charged with felony domestic violence, the former South Carolina Republican legislator fought against harsher domestic violence laws in his state, particularly laws pertaining to guns and domestic abuse. In 2015, Chris Corley voted against a law that would have taken guns away from people charged with domestic violence.
Also in 2015, Chris Corley made a bit of a name for himself following a failed effort to prevent the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse. The flag removal imitative came after the slaughter of nine African American churchgoers by an avowed white supremacist and Confederate flag supporter in Charleston, South Carolina in June of that same year.
After failing to prevent the removal of the Confederate flag, the former South Carolina Republican legislator blasted his fellow Republicans by sending out a Christmas card featuring a Confederate flag. It included advice that they “ask for forgiveness of all your sins such as betrayal.” Democratic South Carolina legislators received a Christmas card with a photo of his children.
It was just over a year later that the South Carolina Republican went on to physically attack his wife, beating her and threatening her life in the presence of those children.
When he explained the Confederate flag Christmas cards, Chris Corley described the stunt as a “joke in his smart-aleck style.”
After he was arrested and charged with aggravated domestic violence on December 27, 2016, Chris Corley was suspended from the South Carolina state House. A month later, the Republican legislator resigned his seat before his fellow lawmakers could force his expulsion via legislation.
[Featured Image by Aiken County Detention Center/AP Images]