A Missouri state trooper pleaded guilty to a boating violation in the drowning death of a handcuffed man, according to The Kansas City Star.
On Tuesday, Anthony Piercy (pictured left) pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a negligent operation of a vessel charge in the May 2014 death of Brandon Ellingson, 20 (pictured right). He faces—at most—six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. A prosecutor could also ask for Piercy to permanently lose his badge.
Piercy stopped the 20-year-old at the Lake of the Ozarks on suspicion of boating while intoxicated. While operating a patrol boat, a handcuffed Ellingson—who was also wearing an improperly secured vest—fell into the lake. The trooper was said to have been traveling up to 46 miles per hour when he was ejected from the boat.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the state settled with the late man’s family for $9 million. Their lawyer noted that this was the most Missouri ever paid out for a death caused by a state employee.
Special Prosecutor William Camm Seay originally charged Piercy with involuntary manslaughter in December 2015. Though the trial was set to begin on July 10, the man’s family and prosecutor feared that a “hometown jury” would be sympathetic and acquit the trooper.
“I had a great fear of a mistrial and just seating a jury,” Seay said.
A coroner determined that Brandon’s death was an accident. Piercy told jurors during an inquest that he was unprepared for what transpired on May 31, 2014. The Star wrote that the 18-year veteran underwent only two days of field training before getting cleared for “solo boat time.”
“It would have been a hung jury, or he would have gotten off,” Brandon’s father, Craig Ellingson, told The Star. “I didn’t want to risk the chance we wouldn’t get the opportunity to see him face to face and say what we want to say. Now we get that.”
The state trooper’s attorneys requested that their client be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea if he’s facing anything more than probation.
“I don’t really give a care what his punishment is, but I wanted his record to say manslaughter,” Brandon’s mother, Sherry Ellingson told reporters.
“If anyone says that justice has now been served, you have got to be kidding me. In what way?”
Piercy’s sentencing is scheduled for September 8.
[Featured Image: Police Handout/WHO-TV]