Crime & Courts

SC House member resigns after being indicted for criminal domestic violence

Rep. Chris Corley, indicted on criminal domestic violence charges for beating his wife, resigned from his seat Tuesday as a resolution that called for his expulsion was about to hit the floor.

The resolution would have been introduced by the chamber’s most powerful member – House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington. Corley’s resignation marks the third time in as many years that a House member has resigned under a cloud.

But shortly after news broke Tuesday that Lucas was preparing to introduce the resolution, Corley faxed in his resignation shortly before 1 p.m. Had Corley been expelled from the House, it would have marked the first time in modern history that chamber took the drastic measure of booting one of their own.

Lucas said in a statement that he was grateful the House did not have to take “such extraordinary measures” to expel Corley. He later added that his decision to introduce the resolution was based on the allegations against Corley, which Lucas said did not meet the “minimally accepted conducted of a member of this body.”

“I don’t think I can ever place a member above the integrity of this institution,” Lucas said. “(Expulsion) is only to be used in extreme situations.”

The resolution would been sent to the House Ethics Committee, though there was a planned effort to pull it directly to the floor for immediate consideration.

House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, said he would have voted in favor of having Corley expelled if the resolution had been put up for a vote.

“Not only would I have supported (the resolution), I believe he would’ve been expelled if it had come to a vote,” Rutherford said. “His situation distinguishes itself with the phone call that we were able to hear from 911 with his kids in the background. That is something that is intolerable to me and intolerable to most in this body.”

Corley’s colleagues had been growing anxious over his fate in recent weeks. Several legislators told The State newspaper that repeated efforts to reach Corley had been unsuccessful. Lucas said his office had been in contact with Corley’s attorney but declined to barter over the condition of his resignation.

Lucas’ resolution would have placed Corley’s fate as a legislator in his colleagues’ hands. Two-thirds of the House would have to vote in favor of the resolution to have him expelled. But getting kicked out wouldn’t have prevented Corley from getting re-elected in a special election.

The majority of the chamber’s members were relieved Tuesday to have the issue resolved. Rep. Neal Collins, who was elected the same year as Corley, in 2014, said he would have voted for Corley’s expulsion.

“I think, for the good of the House, it was a good and needed move that Representative Corley decided to resign, and I hope that he and his family can move past this,” said Collins, R-Pickens.

Corley was arrested Dec. 27 on charges of first-degree criminal domestic violence, which is a felony, and pointing and presenting a firearm at his wife in the presence of two of their children, ages 2 and 8, an incident report states. He was later indicted by a county grand jury on the most serious tier of domestic charges, criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature.

Corley, 36, could spend 20 years in prison on the aggravated domestic violence charge.

Since his indictment, the majority leaders of both the Senate and the House called for his resignation. Corley was suspended from the House on Jan. 4.

Just a few weeks later, he was accused of an “escalating pattern” of domestic violence during his bond hearing on Jan. 18 by a prosecutor.

It was revealed in court that Corley’s wife, who The State newspaper is not naming, confronted him about a text message that led her to believe he was having an affair, said Assistant Attorney General Kinli Abee. Corley then threw his wife on the bed and began punching her, Abee said.

His wife said Corley had grabbed a Smith & Wesson handgun from a vehicle outside their home and pointed it at her, according to the report. That happened after his punch drew blood, she said.

The former lawmaker then went into a bedroom after saying he “was going to kill himself,” his wife, 37, told deputies. As Corley headed for the bedroom, his wife and the children ran to her mother’s house across the street, the report states. Her mother also called 911.

Cynthia Roldán: 803-295-0435, @CynthiaRoldan

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