Saturday, March 3, 2018

Bar Discipline For Domestic Violence Conviction

The web page of the Georgia Supreme Court has announced its anticipated opinions scheduled for release next Monday.

Among the disciplinary matters slated for release is a case described by the Aiken Standard

After former S.C. lawmaker Chris Corley pleaded guilty to a felony domestic violence charge Monday, the question remained as to whether he would lose his license to practice law in Georgia.

Second Judicial Circuit Judge Doyet A. Early III said Monday that Corley would be be disbarred in South Carolina; however, Corley practices law in Augusta, Georgia.

Corley, 36, pleaded guilty to the charge of first-degree domestic violence and was sentenced to six years in prison, suspended to five years probation. 

 He must also follow several stipulations that come with his probationary sentence, which includes hundreds of hours of community service and anger management.

According to the State Bar of Georgia's website: "Upon receipt of information or evidence that an attorney has been convicted of any felony or misdemeanor," the Office of the General Counsel will immediately assign the matter a State Disciplinary Board docket number and petition the Supreme Court of Georgia for the appointment of a Special Master to conduct a show cause hearing.

Within 30 days of the show cause hearing, the appointed Special Master will then file a recommendation with the Supreme Court of Georgia, which may order discipline as deemed appropriate, according to the Georgia State Bar's website.

 It is not known at this time whether or not Corley will be disbarred.

Corley was indicted earlier this year after he was arrested for punching his wife with a closed fist until she bled, biting her on the nose, and then pointing a handgun at her and threatening to kill her and himself at the couple's Sugar Hill Drive home in Graniteville on Dec. 26, 2016, according to court records.

The assault took place in front of two of the couple's three children, according to court records.

The lawmaker resigned from his State House seat in January amid news of his indictment and reported expulsion efforts. 

Also from Palmetto State

Former S.C. lawmaker Chris Corley pleaded guilty Monday to beating his wife in their Aiken County home in December but will avoid prison as long as he completes his court-ordered probation.

Corley pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal domestic violence, a felony. Circuit Judge Jack Early sentenced Corley, 36, to six years, suspended to five years probation. That means Corely will avoid prison as long as he successfully completes his probation, which includes community service and anger-management classes.

The judge could have sentenced him to up to 10 years.

Early’s decision followed emotional testimony from Corley’s wife, Heather, who said her husband was diagnosed in January with bipolar disorder II. Monday was the couple’s 13th wedding anniversary, she said.

“None of this was my intention, for my husband to be facing prison,” she said in court. “I only wanted him to get help.”

Heather Corley said that her husband 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.

“He just wasn’t our Chris,” she said. “He told me several times, ‘I feel like I’m losing months of my life.’”

Prosecutors said the Dec. 26 incident was sparked by a text message Corley sent to his wife that she believed was intended for another woman. When she confronted him about it, he threw her on the bed, hit her in the head, bit her nose, grabbed the skin under her eyes and pulled it down and pulled a gun on her, prosecutors said.

Heather Corley said she tried getting the charges dropped, and was upset that the state subpoenaed the couple’s 8-year-old daughter to testify. Their oldest son was recently diagnosed with autism and bipolar disorder, she said, adding that they could not afford the school he now attends if her husband were sent to prison.

“I’m desperate to save my family and keep my family together,” she said.

Corley was charged initially with first-degree criminal domestic violence. However, a grand jury indicted him on a charge of aggravated domestic violence, for which he faced up to 20 years. In exchange for pleading to the lesser, first-degree charge, prosecutors dismissed a firearm charge.

Before sentencing Monday, Corley apologized to his family and the Aiken County residents he formerly represented as a Republican in the S.C. House. He heard for the first time Monday the 911 call made from their Graniteville home during the incident, in which his 8-year-old daughter is heard pleading, “Please stop. Just stop, Daddy. Just stop. Daddy, why are you doing this?”

“It’s a very difficult thing for a father to hear,” Corley said. “... I would beg this court for mercy in this matter, so that I can continue to be a father to my children.”

Corley was suspended from the House in early January and resigned later that month, just before House members were to vote on a resolution to expel him.

Elected in 2014, Corley was among those voting to stiffen the state’s domestic violence laws in 2015 after South Carolina ranked among the deadliest states for violence against women each year for nearly 20 years.

Corley leaving the courthouse Monday with no prison time sends the wrong message about the state’s approach to domestic violence, said Susan Selden, executive director of the Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons, an Aiken nonprofit dedicated to advocacy for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“I really fear for this family’s safety,” she said. “I think it says to the community that South Carolina is still not willing to take a good, strict stance on domestic violence, and Aiken County is certainly not taking this seriously. You can’t just say somebody’s a good family and they’ve been good people in the community and just brush it under the rug.”

An attorney in Augusta, Ga., Corley could face suspension or disbarment by the Georgia bar pleading guilty to a felony. His attorney said he will report the conviction to the bar Tuesday.

(Mike Frisch)

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