Moniteau County's Shayne Healea pleaded guilty Tuesday to four misdemeanor counts, then resigned as prosecuting attorney.
Gov. Mike Parson's office said Presiding Circuit Judge Kenneth Hayden will name an interim prosecutor to serve until after the Nov. 6 general election, but he had not announced a selection by Tuesday evening.
Healea's resignation came as part of a plea agreement with the Missouri attorney general's office, which served as the special prosecutor in the case that began nearly four years ago, when Healea reportedly backed his pickup truck with the tailgate down into the rear wall of Addison's Restaurant in downtown Columbia, then pulled away from the parking lot.
The accident knocked a portion of the wall into the restaurant, injuring several people.
The amended charges included three Class A misdemeanor assaults — for injuring three people who were in the restaurant — and one Class B misdemeanor for driving while intoxicated.
Shelby County Circuit Judge Frederick "Rick" Tucker sentenced Healea to one year in the county jail on the three assault counts, and four to six months in jail on the DWI — then suspended the execution of those sentences and ordered Healea to serve 24 months of court-supervised probation.
Conditions of the probation require Healea:
Commit no law violations during the two-year period.
Resign as Moniteau County prosecutor by 5 p.m. Tuesday — which he did.
Remove his name from the ballot for re-election.
Not serve as a prosecutor, as long as he's on probation.
Failure to complete his probation conditions could result in Tucker ordering Healea to serve the jail sentences.
The guilty pleas have no immediate effect on Healea's law license.
The state Supreme Court's rule affecting lawyers and the "Interim Suspension and Final Discipline for Criminal Activities" say: "A lawyer admitted to practice law in Missouri is subject to discipline, whether sentence is imposed or not, if the lawyer has pleaded guilty to or been found guilty of Any misdemeanor of this state, any other state, or the United States involving interference with the administration of justice, false swearing, misrepresentation, fraud, deceit, bribery, extortion, misappropriation, theft or moral turpitude."
Any disciplinary action against a lawyer's license would have to be started by the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, which generally isn't allowed by law to comment on a complaint or investigation until after the investigation is finished and a report has been submitted to the Supreme Court.
Healea's resignation Tuesday came in time for the Moniteau County Republican and Democrat committees to nominate candidates to appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
Healea had been unopposed in the Aug. 7 primary and Nov. 6 general elections.
Mary Compton, spokeswoman for Attorney General Josh Hawley, told the News Tribune: "It is the attorney general's hope that this guilty plea and Mr. Healea's resignation from office will bring closure and a measure of justice to the victims and the community."
Healea had been facing five felony charges connected with the October 2014 accident in Columbia, and his guilty pleas to the four misdemeanor charges came shortly before the court was scheduled to begin jury selection in Shelbyville.
After his arrest a short time after the accident, Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight recused his entire office — because Knight and Healea were officers in the statewide Missouri Association of Prosecution Attorneys — and the attorney general's office was named as the special prosecutor.
Eventually, a Boone County grand jury indicted Healea, charging him with leaving the scene of an accident, where there was an injury or property damage and four counts of second-degree assault for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, resulting in injury.
Later, the case was transferred to Shelby County, in northeastern Missouri, on a change of venue.
One reason the case has taken nearly four years to get to trial was a separate legal battle over the process used after the arrest.
In several different court hearings, including Supreme Court arguments last February, Healea's attorney — Shane Farrow, of Jefferson City — said after Healea was arrested Oct. 24, 2014, the Columbia police violated his federal 6th Amendment constitutional right to have a private conversation with his attorney, when they placed Healea in a holding cell and recorded both sides of the conversation.
The recording, labeled "Building Video #5," was later found in the attorney general's files and ultimately shared with Farrow.
When the case was transferred to Shelby County and assigned to Judge Tucker, Farrow raised the constitutional issue and asked that the charges be dropped.
With the agreement of both sides, Tucker appointed retired Circuit Judge Hadley Grimm to be a special master and review Farrow's arguments of constitutional violations.
After a hearing in early December 2016, Grimm issued a report there still could be a trial, even though Healea's rights had been violated.
Farrow appealed to the state's St. Louis-based Eastern District appeals court, and it ruled last June that the trial could move forward but, among other things, ordered Tucker to replace the attorney general's office as the special prosecutor.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court agreed with Grimm that the trial should move forward, and left it to Tucker to decide whether the attorney general's office should be removed.
Tucker this summer rejected that request and, last month, also rejected Farrow's motion to delay the trial further.