After three years of fighting to get justice for his son, Craig Ellingson fears he won’t be in the courtroom when a Missouri trooper learns his punishment.
Trooper Anthony Piercy was scheduled to be sentenced at 3 p.m. Sept. 8 in Versailles, Mo. But earlier this month, Judge Roger Martin Prokes filed a motion to postpone the hearing from 3 to 4 p.m. Or, as the electronic court database points out: “or as soon thereafter as Judge Prokes can arrive.”
If that time stands, Brandon Ellingson’s father and other relatives won’t be there. They don’t believe they’d have enough time to fly back to Iowa for a football game at his son’s high school where officials plan to dedicate a scoreboard in Brandon’s name.
“I don’t want to have someone have to read something for me,” Ellingson said. “I would rather stand there and make him (Piercy) look me in the eyes and tell him he’s the reason Brandon’s not here.”
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Contacted Wednesday afternoon, Special Prosecutor William Camm Seay said he planned to file a motion this week asking the judge to reschedule the hearing.
“The victim needs to be heard,” Seay said. “I think the judge will be accommodating.”
In late June, Piercy avoided an involuntary manslaughter trial by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor boating violation. On a charge of negligent operation of a vessel, Piercy faces up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. The special prosecutor can ask that Piercy be barred from law enforcement for life.
Piercy pulled Brandon Ellingson, 20, over May 31, 2014, on the Lake of the Ozarks for suspicion of boating while intoxicated. During the stop, Piercy handcuffed the Iowa man’s hands behind his back. Witnesses told authorities that the trooper then stuffed an already-buckled life vest — the wrong one for a handcuffed person — over Brandon Ellingson’s head.
On the way to a field office for more testing, Piercy traveled at speeds of up to 46 mph. At one point, after the boat hit a wave, Ellingson was ejected. While in the water, his improperly secured life vest soon came off. Piercy eventually jumped in to try to save him, but couldn’t.
Late last year, the family received a $9 million settlement from the state and earlier won a lawsuit over records. A judge in that case ruled that the patrol knowingly and purposely violated the Sunshine Law by not handing over some information or delaying the release of other documents.
When Piercy pleaded guilty in late June, Ellingson’s father insisted that he wanted the opportunity to speak directly to the trooper. He wanted the trooper to know how deep the family grieves for Brandon.
What he didn’t know then is the sentencing date was the same night his son’s former high school faced their rival, a team Brandon loved to play against because they were always so good. Also that night, the school would honor Ellingson’s son.
“There will be a ton of people there,” Ellingson said. “I’m not going to miss that.”
He said he also hopes he doesn’t have to miss seeing Piercy punished.