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Ex-trooper sentenced to 10 days in jail, probation in handcuffed drowning

Ex-trooper sentenced to 10 days in jail, probation in handcuffed drowning

September 19th, 2017 by Ceil Abbott in Local News

VERSAILLES, Mo. — A former Missouri Highway Patrol trooper was sentenced to 10 days in jail and two years of supervised probation Tuesday after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in July.

Fourth Circuit Judge Roger Martin Prokes also sentenced Anthony Piercy to pay a $300 fine.

Prokes said he would leave it up to Piercy's probation officer to determine when the jail sentence could be served "so it does not interfere" with Piercy's employment.

Piercy was charged with involuntary manslaughter in December 2015 following the drowning death of Brandon Ellingson, a 20-year-old Iowa man, at Lake of the Ozarks the previous summer. Piercy had taken Ellingson into custody for boating while intoxicated, and while in custody, Ellingson fell from the Highway Patrol boat Piercy was operating.

State prosecutors alleged Ellingson died from drowning after Piercy handcuffed him behind his back, then failed to properly secure a lifejacket he had placed around Ellingson's shoulders. Ellingson drowned when he fell from the patrol boat.

After several judges recused themselves from hearing the case, it was sent to the Missouri Supreme Court for assignment. Prokes, of Missouri's Fourth Judicial District, was assigned to the case in July after state prosecutors reduced the original charge of involuntary manslaughter to "criminal negligence in the operation of a motorboat," a misdemeanor.

At Tuesday's sentencing, Prokes allowed Ellingson's father to speak to the court about how the drowning had affected the victim's friends and family. Craig Ellingson then spent more than 20 minutes relaying anecdotes from his son's life and speaking about his son's future plans. However, when he began addressing his comments directly to Piercy — saying, "You are the reason my son is dead," and detailing information he had gleaned from witnesses to the incident — the judge warned him he was speaking outside the agreed-upon bounds of his statement.

The prosecuting attorney then addressed the judge, calling for "two years supervised probation, a jail sentence and the withdrawal of Piercy's POST certification for the remainder of his life."

POST, or Peace Officer Standards and Training, certification is a standard set by the state of Missouri to determine an individual's fitness to serve as an officer of the law.

Following the prosecutor's statement, Piercy's attorney suggested because Piercy had "lived an exemplary existence as a lifelong member of the Versailles community" the judge should suspend the sentence and allow Piercy to serve "a period of unsupervised probation."

Piercy expressed sympathy to the Ellingson family, saying he regretted the incident.

The judge also offered his sympathy to the Ellingson family.

"I don't know if this has ever been done before, but Officer Piercy was a state employee, so I think it is important that I offer the condolences of the state of Missouri to the victim's family," the Prokes said.

The judge added it was his sincere hope the training problems, which had surfaced when the Missouri Highway Patrol and Missouri Water Patrol merged in 2011, "have since been rectified so nothing like this happens again."

After pronouncing the sentence and dismissing the court, a member of Ellingson's family asked Prokes why he had not addressed their request for Piercy's peace officer certification to be revoked.

"That isn't something that is in my jurisdiction," Prokes replied. "POST certifications can only be handled through the state's Department of Public Safety."

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Former Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper Anthony Piercy received a sentence of 10 days in jail and two years supervised probation in connection with the drowning death of Brandon Ellingson.

Judge Roger Martin Prokes handed down the sentence, which also includes a $300 fine, during a Tuesday afternoon sentencing hearing at the Morgan County Justice Center in Versailles.

Piercy pleaded guilty June 27 to negligent operation of a vessel, a class B misdemeanor. That charge was amended from the original December charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Ellingson drowned in 2014 when he fell out of Piercy's boat, handcuffed behind his back while intoxicated and without a properly secured floatation device.

Ellingson's sentence will not require him to do community service as long as he remains employed full time throughout his probation period.

No time frame has been set for his jail sentence, which will be determined by his probation officer.