The plea agreement and sentencing for a state trooper charged in relation to a handcuffed drowning on Lake of the Ozarks in 2014 has been finalized with Anthony Piercy receiving a suspended execution of sentence of 180 days with two years supervised probation, community service and 10 days shock time in jail.

The plea agreement and sentencing for a state trooper charged in relation to a handcuffed drowning on Lake of the Ozarks in 2014 has been finalized with Anthony Piercy receiving a suspended execution of sentence of 180 days with two years supervised probation, community service and 10 days shock time in jail.

Originally charged in December 2015 with the Class C felony of first degree involuntary manslaughter, the 45-year-old state trooper pled guilty to the lesser crime of negligent operation of a vessel, a Class B misdemeanor, in Morgan County Circuit Court in June 2017.

College student Brandon Ellingson died in Piercy’s custody on May 31, 2014 while on Lake of the Ozarks being transported to shore on suspicion of boating while intoxicated. The 20-year-old from Iowa drowned after falling out of the Missouri State Highway Patrol boat. He had been handcuffed and put in a lifejacket that was not properly secured.

At the sentencing hearing that had been reset to Sept. 19, Judge Martin Prokes ordered Piercy to complete 50 hours of community service in six months. The terms of the supervised probation included maintaining full employment and regular urinalysis. Piercy will be able to choose which days he does the shock time. 

While it had been requested that Piercy’s P.O.S.T. certification as a police officer be revoked, the judge said there is a separate process for P.O.S.T. revocation in Missouri and did not order that. Piercy is currently on unpaid administrative leave with the highway patrol, and it is unclear how this will impact his employment with the MSHP. The judge also did not order Piercy to pay a $300 restitution fee to Morgan County as requested by the prosecution.

The guilty plea in June meant Piercy admitted guilt to the criminal negligence of operating a vessel as to cause physical injury to another person. The Class B misdemeanor carries a mandatory probation period of two years and possible six months in detention and/or $500 fine.

The plea deal and punishment of Piercy hinged on whether or not prison time was recommended in the sentencing assessment ordered by Judge Prokes. An agreed-to caveat in the plea bargain meant Piercy could have withdrawn his guilty plea and proceeded to trial if more than probation was recommended.

After researching the community and potential jury pool as well as other recent cases against police officers, Special Prosecutor William Seay had previously said he chose to go with the plea bargain because of the fear of a hung jury or acquittal.

It was an emotional hearing with Brandon Ellingson’s father, Craig, speaking around 45 minutes on behalf of the family. Piercy also spoke, expressing remorse and apologizing to the family.

Judge Prokes also offered apologies on behalf of the state of Missouri to the Ellingson family.

LakeNewsOnline is working on a more in-depth story from the hearing and reaction from Criag Ellingson.

On May 31, 2014, at approximately 5:23 p.m., Brandon Ellingson and several friends from Iowa were pulled over by Piercy as they were leaving Coconuts Bar & Grill in Craig’s boat. Piercy pulled the vessel over regarding an expired registration tag and a report of littering.

Brandon, who was studying business administration at Arizona State University with plans to join his father’s business upon graduation, was at the Lake of the Ozarks for summer vacation as the family had done for years.

Piercy, the lone officer on the patrol vessel, quickly established probable cause to place Ellingson under arrest in MSHP custody on suspicion of boating while intoxicated and began transporting Brandon to a stationary office near the H. Toads complex, a couple miles away from the arrest location for a breathalyzer test.

Toxicology reports show Ellingson had a blood alcohol content of 0.268 at the time of his death, though the autopsy was conducted some 16 hours after his body had been submerged underwater. The report also showed traces of cocaine in his system.

“We never denied the fact he was intoxicated, he was under the influence of alcohol, and the coroner would testify that cocaine was discovered in his system,” Seay said.

The longtime road trooper, who had recently been assigned to work on the waters of Lake of the Ozarks, improperly placed a Type-III life-jacket on Ellingson after handcuffing his arms behind his back. Patrol had recommended using Type I or II life-jackets.

Traveling up to speeds of 43.7 miles per hour, Ellingson was ejected after striking a wake, at which time Piercy slowed the vessel and attempted to grab him using his hands and then a pole. When Ellingson’s life-jacket slipped off, Piercy jumped in and attempted to rescue him, grabbing him at one point but being unable to hold on to Brandon before he sank and Piercy returned to the surface, exhausted from the struggle.

Brandon’s body was located the next day in approximately 80 feet of water near the 3.5-mile marker near Mill Creek. In an audio and video recording with a supervisor taken on another MSHP vessel approximately an hour after the incident, Piercy was apparently concerned with how he handled the incident.

Piercy said the video camera was recording, but had no SD card and therefore was not saving any data. He would later give different versions of when he realized the issue.

“Well I’m sorry I probably did a bunch of things wrong there,” Piercy said at one point. “I guess keep me posted on if I’m going to be employed or what’s going on.”