AGAINST THE ATTORNEY GENERAL …
The day after Christmas last year, former South Carolina state representative Chris Corley was initiated a violent domestic dispute with his wife in their home in Graniteville, S.C.
Corley was accused of punching his wife, Heather Corley, in the face and brandishing a weapon at her after she uncovered evidence of an extramarital affair he had been carrying on.
News of Corley’s arrest broke exclusively on this website. Shortly thereafter, damning evidence related to the incident was released. Perhaps the most disturbing part of the story? Corley’s assault on his wife took place in front of the couple’s three young children – as evidenced by a harrowing 911 call featuring one of the children begging him to “just stop daddy.”
The fallout was immediate. Within days, Corley was indicted on a felony criminal domestic violence charge and suspended from the S.C. House of Representatives. Three weeks later he resigned his seat just hours before his colleagues were set to take up a motion to expel him.
Just like that, Corley’s political career was over …
This website had previously encouraged Corley to step down.
“Corley needs to resign – and press the ‘reset’ button on his life,” we noted at the time. “Not for himself, but for the three children who are depending on him to provide for their well-being.”
It’s that last line that brings us to the Corleys’ current situation …
This week we received a message from Lir Derieg, an attorney representing the victim in this case. Heather Corley had something to say … and she wanted our readers to be the first to hear it.
Next week, Corley will appear alongside her husband before S.C. circuit court judge Doyet Early, who is scheduled to hear the case that will decide his fate. Embattled South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson is also scheduled to appear personally on behalf of his office – which is prosecuting Chris Corley.
As it stands now, Corley is charged with first-degree criminal domestic violence – a felony charge which could carry a prison sentence of up to ten years.
He’s expected to plead guilty to this charge, but there’s a wrinkle to consider …
Beyond the likelihood of jail time, a guilty plea (or conviction) on this charge would mean Corley’s career as an attorney would be finished.
Is that what Heather Corley wants?
(Click to view)
In a prepared statement to be read before judge Early, Corley -who initially agreed to press charges against her husband – argues passionately for his charge to be reduced. According to her, the man who assaulted her seven months ago wasn’t the man she married … not mentally, at least.
Chris Corley suffers from bipolar disorder, his wife explained in her statement, and she attributes the episode that took place in their Graniteville home on that fateful day to his then-undiagnosed condition – and to prescribed medication he was taking at the time that exacerbated it.
“None of this was my intention,” Corley says in her statement. “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. He has been in treatment since January and has been successful. We have our Chris back.”
Corley’s statement goes on to say that after conferring with her husband’s doctors in February, she asked that the charges against him be dropped “as I had a better understanding of what was going on with him mentally.”
At that point, Corley says she honestly believed her family was on the verge of turning the page on this darkest chapter of their past and moving forward together … with Chris Corley receiving the proper treatment and medication for his condition.
That’s not how things have played out, though …
FIGHTING THE LAW …
When Corley communicated her wish to drop the charges against her husband to the attorney general’s office, their attitude toward her underwent an immediate transformation.
“I went from being a victim to being one of the defendants,” she told us.
“From that point on I was treated like a criminal,” her statement to judge Early added. “I had to get an attorney because my wishes were rejected and dismissed without any consideration (or) concern.”
Corley’s statement recalls repeated efforts to convince prosecutor Kinli Abee, supervising attorney Robert Bolchez and even the attorney general himself to reduce the charge against her husband – which she says would be “common procedure” in any other case.
Bolchez in particular, Corley says, was “not only rude to me but even laughed at me as I was desperate to save my family.”
Corley also claims the attorney general’s office is mistaken as it relates to several key elements of the case – to which she, her children and Corley were the only witnesses.
“I have tried to correct what Ms. Abee said in open court about what happened that night. I was never stuck with a closed fist,” she wrote in her statement. “My concern about the gun was that Chris would shoot himself. However, once Ms. Abee created her own narrative there was no going back.”
In a text message sent to the attorney general earlier this week, Corley literally begs Wilson to show her husband mercy.
“Please I am begging you to allow Chris to (plead) to CDV 2 so that he won’t go to jail and can keep his law license,” Corley wrote in the message. “I never wanted any of this! I only wanted Chris to get help. He has been diagnosed with bipolar depression and is in treatment. Chris is like his old self again and we have put our family back together. Please do not destroy our family and ruin our children’s lives and futures because we had a bad 25 seconds. Please give us some mercy! I am begging you!”
Similar messages were also sent to Abee.
As of this writing, Corley says she has received no response from anyone in the attorney general’s office regarding her request.
In fact not only is Wilson’s office refusing to lower the charges against Chris Corley – but Abee has even threatened to subpoena the family’s eight-year-old daughter as a witness in the case in the event it goes to trial.
Here’s more from her planned statement to judge Early …
Chris has been publicly disgraced and lost his public office that we put blood, sweat, tears, money and countless hours into. Now they want to take his means of supporting his family away. When is enough, enough?
Our oldest son has autism and bipolar disorder (which appears to be hereditary). Because of this we had to pull him out of public school and send him to a school that is more suited to his needs. I cannot afford to send him there without Chris continuing to practice law. He is dependent on his daddy especially at bedtime due to his disability.
Our 8 year old daughter, who idolizes her daddy, was actually heartlessly subpoenaed by Ms Abee to testify. I think this is the biggest factor in Chris taking this plea. He would do anything to protect our baby from the psychological damage that would inflict.
My children need their daddy. He is a part of every aspect of their lives. To take that away from them would be beyond repairable.
Heather Corley’s statement concludes with a scathing rebuke of Wilson’s handling of her husband’s case.
“I feel that we have been coerced into this plea with the threat of subpoenaing our daughter,” she plans to tell judge Early. “I thought our court system was about justice but it appears that if the attorney general is involved it is only about politics and public relations.”
Is her assessment accurate?
Sources family with the case tell us “yes.”
“High-profile CDV cases don’t get dropped nor do they get pleaded down,” one state prosecutor familiar with the process told us. “If your name is in the paper on a regular basis and you get popped for CDV, you’re not getting a deal.”
What about cases with low-profile defendants?
“Oh yeah,” the prosecutor told us. “Nobodies who beat up their wives and girlfriends walk all the time.”
A state lawmaker familiar with the case agreed with that assessment.
“Chris Corley is unfairly being scapegoated for South Carolina’s shortcomings when it comes to criminal domestic violence,” the lawmaker told us in a written statement. “I thought the powers that be were so concerned about the Corley children? Obviously not when they are about to render their father unemployable and thereby making the family destitute. This is nothing but a dog and pony show. It’s simply shameful.”
WILL SHE PREVAIL?
Will Heather Corley prevail? Can she convince prosecutors at the last minute to change their minds? Or convince a judge to somehow intervene on her husband’s behalf?
We have mixed emotions about this case, we won’t lie …
If what she says is true, then we wholeheartedly agree that her husband – who has never been in trouble with the law before – should be given another chance.
Heather Corley’s narrative paints the picture of a family that has survived a harrowing ordeal – and has worked together to identify and address what led to this physical and emotional trauma.
Moreover, Corley is the victim in this case. Shouldn’t her wishes be respected?
Most relevant from our perspective is this point: It’s not as if Chris Corley is “getting off.” Second degree criminal domestic violence is still a serious charge – with serious jail time associated with it. If he were to plead guilty to this charge, Corley could still be imprisoned for up to three years and fined up to $5,000.
The big difference? Second degree CDV is a misdemeanor, meaning Chris Corley would be able to continue practicing law.
Based on what we know of this case, a second degree charge seems fitting – especially considering Heather Corley’s statement on behalf of her husband.
Having said that, as much as we believe Wilson to be grandstanding on this case in an effort to salvage his tattered political career, we would be remiss not to acknowledge that his office is well within its rights to charge Corley as it sees fits and seek the elevated punishment.
We would also be remiss if we failed to point out that any reduction of the charges against Chris Corley would likely be viewed in some circles as Wilson going soft on a fellow “Republican” politician.
Never mind that in this case that would seem to be the proper path to take …
What do you think? Vote in our poll (below) and then feel free to share your thoughts in our comments section …
Should Chris Corley be allowed to plead guilty to a second degree CDV charge?
WANNA SOUND OFF?
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