Nearly two years after Trooper Anthony Piercy was charged in the death of Brandon Ellingson, who drowned in the Lake of the Ozarks with his hands cuffed behind his back, the case has been closed. Predictably, the offending officer is getting off with less than a slap on the wrist.
For handcuffing a college student, negligently casting him into a lake, and watching as he drowned, Trooper Piercy avoided an involuntary manslaughter trial after pleaded guilty to a simple boating violation in June.
This week, Piercy was sentenced for his role in Ellingson’s death and he received just 10 days in jail. The judge referred to this insultingly low sentence of only 10 days as “shock time.”
According to the Kansas City Star, in addition to the “shock time” in the Morgan County jail, Judge Roger Prokes sentenced Trooper Anthony Piercy to two years of supervised probation and ordered him to complete 50 hours of community service. Piercy will serve time in jail in five, two-day increments with his first stint scheduled to begin Friday.
To Ellingson family and those who’ve been following this case, it is a kick in the teeth.
“Ten days is like a vacation,” Craig Ellingson said. “It’s a joke. … He knows he’s guilty and he’s damn lucky to get what he got.”
As the Star reports, Special Prosecutor William Camm Seay requested Piercy receive 30 days in jail and have his law enforcement certification revoked for life. Prokes, however, said the decision on Piercy’s certification was for the state, not him.
Seay is a standup attorney, however, and vowed to follow up to make sure this cop loses his license for the death of this beloved young man.
“I wished we would have gotten what we asked for,” Seay told The Star after the hearing. “It’s my hope he (Piercy) never ever serves as a law enforcement officer again. I’ve fulfilled my obligation but I feel like I have an obligation to the Ellingson family to see this out.”
However, the patrol noted that Piercy is still a cop and is merely on unpaid leave. What happens now with Piercy’s employment “is a personnel issue,” said Lt. Paul Reinsch, the Star reported.
During the proceedings, Craig Ellingson finally got to address the man responsible for taking the only thing in the world that mattered, his son. Almost immediately, he began to cry as he read through a three-page statement.
“Anthony Piercy, it has been almost 3 1/2 years that I’ve waited to tell you face to face that you’re the reason why my son Brandon is dead,” Ellingson said.
On May 31, 2014. Trooper Piercy arrested Ellingson under suspicion of OWI and negligently placed the wrong life jacket over the handcuffed 20-year-old’s torso. Piercy then drove his patrol boat away from the scene at a high rate of speed. Ellingson was thrown from the craft when it struck a sizeable wake, the life jacket came off, and he drowned with his hands still in cuffs while Piercy callously watched on.
“He’s an evil person,” Ellingson’s father Craig told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “The reason we decided to go to the plea deal was it was tainted down there,” in Morgan County, Missouri’s court system.
During the investigation, it was determined that Piercy did little to nothing as he watched Ellingson drown.
As the Beast reported:
Piercy did not jump in to save him.
When a bachelorette party passed on a nearby boat, the passengers threw Ellingson a life ring “but they didn’t know my son was handcuffed,” Craig said. “Piercy didn’t say he was handcuffed.”
The women told investigators that they screamed at Piercy to extend a pole to Ellingson, which he did “but he knew he was handcuffed,” Craig said.
Piercy did not call a supervisor for help until an hour after Ellingson drowned. Footage from his boat shows Piercy having a chillingly casual conversation with his colleague, referring to Ellingson in profane terms.
“I’m banged up a little bit, but I’m alright. I don’t know if I’m sore from treading water with the bastard,” Piercy told a supervisor of the dead 20-year-old.
As The Free Thought Project previously reported, following the familiar full-court press to prevent officer accountability,the jury in a Coroner’s Inquest ruled Ellingson’s death to be accidental. It was subsequently revealed that Amanda Grellner, the prosecutor who declined to file charges against Piercy, had received a personal favor from the MHP three years earlier when the department declined to charge her then-18-year-old son with DUI.
Last September, a circuit court judge found that the state had “knowingly and purposefully” covered up the crimes of Piercy, violating the state’s Sunshine Law in the act.
After seeing that they were getting zero help from the perpetrator and his subsequent conspirators, the family of Ellingson launched a campaign for justice. During this campaign, they were joined by Missouri Highway Patrol Sergeant, Randy Henry.
Henry witnessed first hand, the incompetence, negligence, and cover-up and took to exposing it.
“We killed Brandon Ellingson,” Henry bluntly told the Lake Expo newspaper, following it with the question of “Why are we investigating ourselves?”
In a conversation with Piercy the day following Ellingson’s death, Henry expressed concerns about how the arresting officer had conducted himself. Piercy himself seemed remorseful, telling Henry,
“I feel like I drowned that kid…. I should have done more for him.”
In any other context, that comment would be treated as a confession to second-degree murder.
Henry then filed a report on the drowning and testified about the inadequate training Piercy and other water patrol officers received.
During an interview with patrol investigators following the drowning, Henry mentioned a state law dealing with the safety of people in custody and how the police are responsible for the lives of those they detain. An investigator interrupted Henry and insisted that the recorder be turned off, to deliberately prevent an official record of his disclosures.
The stiff arm of blue justice moved in and now we are seeing the results.
Instead of Piercy being held accountable for his negligence, it was Henry who was then run through the gamut of the thin blue line. He was cast out by his department, demoted to corporal, and forced to retire.