COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina House member who rebuked his colleagues in a Christmas card for lacking morals when they took down the Confederate flag is accused of beating his wife and pointing a gun at her, deputies said.
Officers in Aiken County charged Rep. Chris Corley with a pair of felonies that could send him to prison for up to 15 years after he attacked his wife during an argument over his infidelity late Monday night at their home in Graniteville, according to a police report.
The couple's young children were there, and the wife took the family to her mother's house across the street after Corley threatened to kill her, then said he would kill himself, the report said.
Corley's wife said he stopped hitting her only after noticing she was bleeding and hearing the children screaming, deputies said.
Corley told officers his wife tried to punch him after accusing him of cheating, and the police report noted a scratch on his forehead.
Corley is charged with first-degree criminal domestic violence, which carries up to 10 years in prison if convicted, and pointing a firearm at a person, which has a maximum sentence of five years. Neither charge has a minimum punishment.
A judge set Corley's bond at $20,000 and ordered him to not contact his wife. Corley didn't talk about the charges during his brief hearing Tuesday afternoon.
The 36-year-old Republican lawyer was just elected to a second term.
Corley's arrest comes after a legislative session where lawmakers strengthened punishments for domestic violence. Gov. Nikki Haley made it a priority to reduce the state's high rate of women killed by men who know them. Corley voted for the legislation.
House Speaker Jay Lucas promised in a statement to take action if Corley is indicted. By state law, Corley must be suspended from the House if indicted on a felony charge.
Corley may be best known in the House as a staunch defender of the Confederate flag. After the flag was removed from Statehouse grounds in July 2015, Corley sponsored a bill for a statewide vote on whether to return it. The bill went nowhere.
He also sent a Christmas card with the Confederate flag on it to Republican lawmakers in 2015 after the flag came down suggesting they "ask for forgiveness of all your sins such as betrayal," calling it a joke in his smart-aleck style. Democrats got a card with a photo of his children.
Corley's holiday card started with: "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."
The arrest was first reported by The Aiken Standard.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/jeffrey-collins .
Information from: Aiken Standard, http://www.aikenstandard.com