Politics & Government

Disgraced ex-SC lawmaker asks judge to dismiss probation in domestic violence case

Disgraced former S.C. lawmaker Chris Corley avoided a lengthy prison sentence after he pleaded guilty in 2017 to first-degree criminal domestic violence against his wife — and now he’s asking an Aiken County judge to dismiss him from probation.

On Wednesday, Corley made his first court appearance in nearly two years, asking Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman to end his probation, saying he had completed the sentencing requirements of more than 100 hours of community service and anger management.

“This caused me to almost lose my family, and I did lose my standing in society,” Corley, R-Aiken, said in court Wednesday, according to the Aiken Standard, which first reported the hearing. “I’m just so sorry for everything that happened.”

The S.C. Attorney General’s Office, who is prosecuting the case, told The State Newspaper on Thursday it opposes the early dismissal.

Corley pleaded guilty in 2017 to first-degree criminal domestic violence, a felony, after he was charged a year earlier with assaulting and threatening to kill his wife in front of their children at their Graniteville home. He subsequently resigned his State House seat after intense pressure from state House and Senate colleagues, including other members of the Aiken County delegation.

Circuit Court Judge Doyet Early sentenced Corley to six years in prison — which was suspended to five years probation — after emotional testimony from his wife, Heather Corley, who asked that the charges be dropped. Corley’s probation started Aug. 7, 2017. It is set to expire on Aug. 6, 2022.

Corley has not violated his probation, according to the state Office of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.

The Attorney General’s Office said the judge is taking Corley’s request under advisement, and has asked Corley’s defense to submit a medical evaluation stating that any issue Corley was suffering from at the time of his arrest in December 2016 is now under control.

Corley’s wife told the court at her husband’s August 2017 plea hearing that the former legislator was diagnosed that January with a type of bipolar disorder. She also said that Corley saw three doctors in the year before the assault, and that he was misdiagnosed and prescribed medications that exacerbated his behavior, which included periods of high stress and memory loss.

State Rep. Cezar McKnight, D-Williamsburg, who is representing Corley in his probation proceedings, told The State Newspaper Thursday they plan to submit his evaluation soon. “We were grateful for the opportunity to be heard by (the) judge,” McKnight said.

Corley is no longer earning an income after his law license was revoked and he was disbarred by the State Bar of Georgia, leaving the family to cut back on spending, Heather Corley told the court Wednesday, according to the Aiken Standard.

If the judge grants Corley early dismissal from his probation, the former state lawmaker could earn back his law license, a State Bar of Georgia spokeswoman said. However, she added, he would have to start at the beginning of the process, which includes taking the bar exam again — only offered twice a year in Georgia.

An attempt to reach Corley was unsuccessful.

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Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.