Next month, Craig Ellingson will get to face the man he says took his son’s life three years ago.
He wasn’t so sure last week that he’d be able to look Trooper Anthony Piercy in the eye when he received punishment for his actions the day Brandon Ellingson drowned in handcuffs. But a judge rescheduled the hearing for mid-September so Ellingson can be there.
“I was happy to see that,” Ellingson said Tuesday. “I’m thinking about what I’m going to say.”
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 to 4 p.m. or even a little after. If that had happened, Ellingson wouldn’t have been able to fly back to West Des Moines, Iowa, in time for a football game where a scoreboard would be dedicated in his son’s name.
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The Star wrote last week about the time conflict and reported that Special Prosecutor William Camm Seay planned to file a motion to reschedule. The sentencing will now be at 1 p.m. Sept. 19 in Versailles, according to Missouri’s electronic court database.
In late June, Piercy avoided an involuntary manslaughter trial by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor boating violation. On that charge of negligent operation of a vessel, Piercy faces up to six months in jail, a $500 fine or both. The special prosecutor can ask that Piercy be barred from law enforcement for life.
If the sentencing assessment report recommends more than probation for Piercy, his attorney has asked that the trooper be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.
Piercy pulled over Brandon Ellingson, 20, on 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 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, and 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 said he wanted the opportunity to speak directly to the trooper. Whatever happens next month, Ellingson’s family won’t view it as justice.
But they also feared they wouldn’t get a fair trial in the small town where Piercy lived and was on the school board at the time he was charged in December 2015.
“There’s no amount of justice that he’s going to get that is worth what he did to Brandon,” Ellingson said Tuesday. “Whatever they give him would never be enough. He took my son from me, from Sherry (Brandon’s mom) and my daughter, and all his friends and my mom. You can’t put a value on that.”