Crime & Courts

S.C. lawmaker suspended after indictment on aggravated domestic violence charge

In a one-two punch Wednesday, State Rep. Chris Corley was suspended from the S.C. House of Representatives minutes after a grand jury indicted him on a more serious domestic violence charge that could land him in prison for up to 20 years.

“Pursuant to state law, he has been suspended effective immediately from the South Carolina House of Representatives,” House Speaker Jay Lucas announced Wednesday afternoon. “Because this case is an open investigation, additional inquiries should be directed to the SC Attorney General’s office.”

An Aiken County grand jury on Wednesday returned indictments against Corley, 36, for domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature and pointing and presenting a firearm, according to a news release from Attorney General Alan Wilson.

The indictment accuses Corley of a felony count of causing physical harm to his wife in the presence of minors with a gun. Corley faces up to five years in prison on the firearm charge.

Until Wednesday, the Aiken Republican had been charged with first-degree criminal domestic violence, also a felony, which carries up to 10 years in prison.

Corley was arrested Dec. 27 on charges that he punched his wife in the face and threatened to kill her as he pointed a 9 mm pistol at her during an argument at their Graniteville home when she accused him of cheating, according to Aiken County sheriff’s records.

In audio from the 911 call placed from Corley’s Graniteville home, children can be heard screaming and “begging for their father to stop.”

“Please stop,” is screamed repeatedly. “Just stop, daddy. Just stop. Why are you doing this, daddy?”

Also heard is, “Please, Chris,” presumably from Corley’s wife of 12 years.

Aiken County deputies would later get a follow-up phone call from a different woman.

That caller, who is not identified but presumably is Corley’s mother-in-law, is heard telling deputies that a man with a gun “beat his wife and he’s threatening to kill his self (sic).” Corley’s wife and two of their children had fled across the street to her mother’s home.

In the background of the second recording, a calm female voice says, “Don’t get near the window, y’all.” That seems to be Corley’s wife talking to her children, who had witnessed the fight minutes before.

Corley has no prior criminal record, according to state law enforcement records. But the seriousness of the initial and the newest charges position him to be suspended from his House seat.

Corley’s wife, who The State newspaper is not identifying by name, told deputies that the only thing that stopped Corley from firing were the screams of two of their children, one of whom is 8 and the other of whom is nearly 2, according to the deputies’ incident report.

The lawmaker then went into a bedroom, saying he “was going to kill himself,” his wife, 37, told deputies. As Corley went toward the bedroom, his wife and the children ran to her mother’s house across the street, deputies said. The report does not mention a third child, who is listed in the current S.C. Legislative Manual.

Corley was released from jail on a $20,000 surety bond and with orders from a judge not to go near any domestic violence shelters or possess a firearm.

The case will be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office.

“The solicitor asked our office to take over out of an abundance of caution and we agreed,” said Hayley Thrift, a spokesperson for Wilson’s office.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.