COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The South Carolina sheriff accused of punching a woman in the face at his home said he is taking a leave of absence to heal and self-reflect.
Colleton County Sheriff R.A. Strickland announced his leave Monday evening, two days after he was charged with second-degree criminal domestic violence.
Strickland attacked the woman in his house Thursday night, punching her in the face causing "moderate bodily injury" and took her cellphones so she couldn't call for help, according to an arrest warrant from the State Law Enforcement Division.
Strickland's statement doesn't mention the allegations against him.
"This time will allow me to heal, and self-reflect on myself," Strickland wrote. "I will strive to be stronger, and better at serving the citizens of Colleton, and my employees upon returning."
Chief Deputy Buddy Hill will run the sheriff's office, Strickland wrote in his statement, which said he decided to take his leave "out of love, and respect for my employees, and the citizens of Colleton County."
Strickland was booked into his own jail in Colleton County before being released on his own recognizance. He faces up to three years in prison if convicted of the misdemeanor.
The warrant only identified the woman as a "household member."
Strickland has been sheriff in Colleton County for seven years. Several candidates are campaigning against him in next year's election, prompting the Republican sheriff to send an email to all his employees in August reminding them that under South Carolina law, he makes all personnel decisions and can fire them for just about any reason, including any support given to one of his opponents.
In the email with the subject line "Calling a Few Out!" Strickland told sheriff's office employees that "zero tolerance is now in effect" and to "stay in your lane."
Nine other sheriffs have been convicted of crimes in the past decade in South Carolina on charges ranging from protecting drug dealers to using inmates for personal work to using the power of their office to arrange an affair with a subordinate.
Strickland and two other sheriffs are currently awaiting trials. Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone is charged with using county money and drug seizure funds for personal items and prosecutors said Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood violated a man's civil rights by jailing him for three days and creating a false report after he videotaped an investigation outside his home.
One other sheriff died just before he was likely to be indicted on embezzlement charges, authorities have said in court papers.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP .