‘Just stop, daddy’: A lawmaker beat his wife as his children pleaded with him, officials say

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[Aiken County Sheriff's Office.]

The screaming voices of children can be heard in the 911 call.

No one is talking to the dispatcher. All that can be heard are screams of “Stop!” in the background.

“Please stop! Just stop, daddy. Just stop.”

The call was made Monday night from the home of South Carolina state Rep. Chris Corley, a young politician who made headlines last year when he staunchly fought to keep the Confederate flag flying on the statehouse grounds. The screaming voices appear to have come from his three children.

Corley hit his wife in the face and threatened to kill her in front of their children, according to an incident report from the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office. His wife told investigators that Corley only stopped hitting her because the children were screaming and blood was coming out from her head. He then went out to his vehicle, came back with a handgun and pointed it at his wife, threatened to kill himself, and then went to the bedroom, the report states.

Corley’s wife and children were able to flee to her mother’s house across the street. There, a second 911 call was made.

“There’s a man threatening to kill his self [sic],” a woman, presumably Corley’s wife’s mother, can be heard talking. “He hit his wife. He beat his wife and he’s threatening to kill his self [sic] . . . He has a weapon . . . It’s a gun . . .”

Corley, of Graniteville, S.C., was arrested on Tuesday and charged with first-degree domestic violence and pointing a firearm at a person, according to an online docket. He told investigators that he and his wife got into a fight because she suspected him of cheating. He said his wife tried to strike him in the face, but he pushed her off him, according to the report.

The 36-year-old Republican lawmaker, who has a law office in Augusta, Georgia, was elected to represent South Carolina’s 84th District in 2014. He was re-elected without opposition this year.

Corley’s arrest comes after a legislative session in which South Carolina lawmakers passed a sweeping reform bill that toughens punishments in domestic violence cases and bars offenders from possessing guns.

In a December 2014 interview with the Aiken Standard, Corley, then newly elected, had some reservations about imposing a gun ban to solve domestic violence.

“As far as what we can do as government, you know, stiffer mandatory penalties. I don’t know that saying you can’t have a gun because you get convicted of domestic violence, I don’t know if that’s going to stop someone from future domestic violence,” Corley said.

But Aiken voted to pass the bill, which includes a partial gun ban. Gov. Nikki Haley (R) signed it into law in June 2015.

Corley is, perhaps, best known in South Carolina as the legislator who fiercely fought to keep the confederate flag hoisted in front statehouse.

Lawmakers debated removing the flag last year in the aftermath of the massacre of nine parishioners inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historically black church in Charleston, S.C. Among the victims is state Sen. Clementa Pinckney (D). Dylann Roof has been convicted in the murders.

During the lengthy debate last year, Corley suggested replacing it with the white flag of surrender and held up a piece of paper taped to a pencil to illustrate his point, the Associated Press reported.

The flag was removed in July 2015, a month after the shooting. But Corley refused to give up the fight.

He sponsored a bill that would allow voters to decide on whether to return the flag. The bill went nowhere, the AP reported.

In December 2015, he sent out Christmas cards to his colleagues that featured a photo of the flag at the statehouse, according to the State. The card read:

“May your Christmas be filled with memories of a happier time when South Carolina’s leaders possessed morals, convictions and the principles to stand for what is right. . . . May you have a blessed Christmas, and may you take this joyous time as an opportunity to ask for forgiveness of all your sins such as betrayal.”

He told the State that the card was a message to his fellow lawmakers who “betrayed the will of their constituents” by choosing political correctness.

“You really want to mend racial tension and racial strife? Don’t go making backroom deals,” he told the paper. “You’ll have one group who gets the short end of the stick and make the side even more mad and hurt the goal of bringing all of South Carolina together.”

Online records show that Corley posted a $20,000 bond shortly after his arrest. He was ordered to not contact his wife and was barred from handling a firearm during a brief court hearing on Tuesday, according to the AP.

The felony charges he’s facing carry a total of up to 15 years in prison. If indicted by a grand jury, Corley will be suspended from his post.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Jay Lucas (R) told the Post and Courier that the Speaker “will take the necessary action to comply with the law and maintain the dignity of the House of Representatives” if or when Corley is indicted.

Susan Selden, director of the Cumbee Center to Assist Abuse Persons in Aiken, S.C., called for Corley to resign.

“It sets a bad example for him to remain as a legislator while he’s being investigated for this,” Selden told the Aiken Standard.

It’s unclear who Corley’s lawyer is. According to the State, his attorney declined to comment and to give his name to reporters after the hearing on Tuesday.

(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Kristine Guerra

[Aiken County Sheriff's Office.]
[Aiken County Sheriff’s Office.]