Crime & Public Safety

Bluffton man, ex-guitarist of Wicked Lester, now on probation for 2014 child sex crimes, official says

Stephen Arthur Coronel of Bluffton was arrested in 2014 on three counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in April 2016. Coronel — who played guitar with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in Wicked Lester, which later became the glam rock band Kiss — was released from South Carolina Department of Corrections on March 4 and is currently at Beaufort County Detention Center, where he has chosen to stay while awaiting permission to move to Florida and serve out his probation there.
Stephen Arthur Coronel of Bluffton was arrested in 2014 on three counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in April 2016. Coronel — who played guitar with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in Wicked Lester, which later became the glam rock band Kiss — was released from South Carolina Department of Corrections on March 4 and is currently at Beaufort County Detention Center, where he has chosen to stay while awaiting permission to move to Florida and serve out his probation there.

A Bluffton man who played guitar with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in the band Wicked Lester — which later became the iconic band Kiss — was released from prison Monday and transferred to the Beaufort County Detention Center, where he is choosing to stay while awaiting approval to move to Florida, according to a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.

Stephen Arthur Coronel, 67, of Plantation Point, pleaded guilty in 2016 to three counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, according to the Beaufort County 14th Judicial Circuit Public Index.

He was arrested in September 2014 by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office after a search of his home, where he had been playing or uploading four videos of children engaging in sexual acts, according to a report by The Island Packet newspaper at the time.

The Sheriff’s Office investigation began June 30, 2014, after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children alerted them to a Bluffton IP address that was streaming child pornography, which depicted a young girl, believed to be 6 to 11 years old, according to previous reporting.

The S.C. Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Sheriff’s Office determined the IP address belonged to Coronel and searched his home.

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The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation to determine whether Coronel was involved in the production of the videos, the report said.

Coronel was sentenced to 10 years in prison with 75 days served, according to the public index.

His sentencing agreement included the possibility of serving only six of those years with three years’ probation. The terms of his probation bar him from accessing the Internet and require him to receive sex offender counseling, as well as to register as a sex offender.

Coronel registered as a sex offender in Beaufort County on Feb. 5.

He has asked the state for permission to relocate to Florida and serve his probation there, according to Peter O’Boyle, public information director for the state’s probation services.

Though probation services found a halfway house where he could live, Coronel has chosen to remain incarcerated at the county jail until his application to move is processed, which can take up to 45 days, O’Boyle said.

Coronel is known for playing a significant role in the formation of the glam rock band Kiss, which first rose to fame in the mid- to late 1970s as antithesis to the disco movement.

According to Gene Simmons’ 2002 memoir “Kiss and Make-Up,” Coronel — a childhood friend — introduced Simmons to Paul Stanley in New York City in 1970. The three were in a band called Rainbow, which later became Wicked Lester.

At the urging of a record label, the band fired Coronel in 1971 and replaced him with another guitarist.

Wicked Lester first performed as Kiss in early 1973, after adding drummer Peter Criss and lead guitarist Paul “Ace” Frehley.

Coronel co-wrote several songs that were released on Kiss albums, including “She” and “Goin’ Blind,” but never performed a major show, Dennis Gage, manager of Rocket Ride, a St. Louis-based Kiss tribute band, said in 2014 in a Packet report.

“A lot of things he envisioned never really came true. That can pretty much tear a person apart,” Gage said about Coronel in 2014.

Columnist and senior editor Liz Farrell graduated from Gettysburg College with a degree in political science and writes about a wide range of topics, including Bravo’s “Southern Charm.” She has lived in the Lowcountry for 15 years, but still feels like a fraud when she accidentally says “y’all.”


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