Chris Corley is being successfully treated for bipolar disorder and needs to keep working as a lawyer to support his children, Heather Corley plans to tell the judge who will sentence the former South Carolina state representative for domestic violence Monday – the couple’s 13th wedding anniversary.
Heather Corley, whom Chris Corley is accused of beating, plans to read a statement to Judge A. Doyet Early, according to her lawyer, Lir Derieg of Columbia. The statement was released to The Augusta Chronicle on Saturday.
In it, Heather Corley blames bipolar disorder for the events that led to Chris Corley’s arrest in December and says he is doing so well in treatment that “We have our Chris back.”
“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,” she says in her statement. “He has been in treatment since January and has been successful.”
Heather Corley also criticizes the state Attorney General’s Office, which declined her request to reduce his charges last week, and says her husband accepted a plea deal because prosecutors told her they would subpeona the couple’s 8-year-old daughter – who witnessed at least part of the attack.
“Because of the seriousness of the allegations and that a gun was involved, we will not drop or reduce the charges,” Robert Kittle, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, wrote in response to questions about Heather Corley’s request.
Chris Corley, who on Jan. 24 resigned the District 84 seat he’d been elected to in 2014, had been charged with domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature, but was offered the opportunity to plead guilty to first-degree domestic violence, which carries a prison term of up to 10 years, but has no mandatory minimum. Early will decide Monday how much time, if any, Corley would serve.
The plea deal had been offered before Heather Corley’s request, but Chris Corley had not taken it before last week, Kittle said.
“Our 8-year-old daughter, who idolizes her daddy, was actually heartlessly subpoenaed by Ms. (Assistant Attorney General Kinlee) Abee to testify. I think this is the biggest factor in Chris taking this plea. He would do anything to protect our baby girl from the psychological damage that would inflict,” Heather Corley says in her statement.
“Once I met with his doctors in February I asked to drop charges as I had a better understanding of what was going on with him mentally. This was not well received by the AGs office and I was told they were going forward with or without me and that they didn’t need me at all. From that point on I was treated like a criminal,” the statement says. “I had to get an attorney because my wishes were rejected and dismissed without any consideration are concern… 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. My concern about the gun was that Chris would shoot himself. However, once Ms. Abee created her own narrative there was no going back.”
Attempts to reach Abee on Saturday were unsuccessful.
Corley is accused of punching his wife in the face and head and threatening to kill her while pointing a Smith & Wesson handgun at her on Dec. 26. An Aiken County Sheriff’s Office report stated that the incident happened in front of the couple’s 8- and 2-year-old children.
Corley, 36, has said that his wife tried to hit him in the face and that he pushed her away.
In a January court hearing, when charges against Corley were upgraded, prosecutor Abee told Early that Heather Corley still lived “in fear for her life” and had taken out a restraining order to keep him away from her. He already had been ordered by the court to have no contact with her or his children.
“This is an escalating pattern of behavior,” Abee said. “It’s not the first time.”
Now, however, Heather Corley says her children need their father and the money he earns as a lawyer – which would be threatened by a felony conviction.
“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? her statement says. “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.”
Concluding her statement, Corley plans to ask the judge to consider the winners and losers in the case.
“Financially we will lose everything should he go to jail, and/or lose his license. … Who would benefit here? If that happens I can tell you who the loser would be – my children. And that’s why I formally requested 1, that the charges be dismissed. 2, I requested that the charges be dropped to 3rd degree. When both of those were denied, I contacted both Ms. Abee and Attorney General Wilson and begged for 2nd degree. Which was denied and that brings us here today. I feel that we have been coerced into this plea with the threat of subpoenaing our daughter.”
Kittle said the Attorney General’s Office had no comment Saturday.
“We will make our case in court on Monday,” he said.
Reach James Folker at (706) 823-3338 or firstname.lastname@example.org