LAKE OF THE OZARKS - The state trooper who had Brandon Ellingson in his custody when he drowned in 2014 was in court for sentencing on Tuesday. The judge sentenced Anthony Piercy to two years of probation and 10 days in jail.
Piercy pleaded guilty to misdemeanor negligent operation of a vessel. Prosecutors initially charged Piercy with involuntary manslaughter, but he took a deal to plead to the lesser charge.
"I would have loved to have him for manslaughter," Special Prosecutor William Camm Seay said after the sentencing. "But if you know what's going on in this community, I was concerned there would be jury absolution and that because he held such a high position in the community, they would have walked him. And I didn't want to take that risk, and I discussed that with the victim. So we got what we could get."
In May 2014, Piercy arrested Ellingson for suspicion of boating while intoxicated. Ellingson was handcuffed with a life jacket improperly fastened around him on a patrol boat when he fell into the lake. Piercy was driving the boat, and though reports said he jumped in after Ellingson, he did not save him.
Piercy had previously testified that he did not receive any formal training on how to use the life vest or which one to use. He had also said he wasn't trained on what to do if someone in custody went into the water.
In court on Tuesday, Ellingson's father, Craig Ellingson spoke, saying Piercy was directly responsible for his son's death and did not know how to use safety equipment. After the sentencing, he spoke with the media about his feelings on the now lengthy case.
"You know it's been three and a half years and it's over," Craig Ellingson said. "Someday, like I wrote in my statement, justice will prevail. I am a Christian. I believe in forgiveness, but god loves justice also. ... Someday he'll meet his maker when he takes his last breath, and he'll have to answer for what he did."
During his sentencing, Piercy apologized and said, "I apologize for the loss that I've caused the Ellingson family."
To see his full statement, see the video below:
There was discussion during sentencing about whether Piercy should lose his law enforcement license, but the judge said he did not have the authority to make any decisions on the trooper's license.
KOMU 8 News has a reporter at the courthouse in Versailles and will update this story with reaction from Ellingson's family.
Below is a timeline of the case, previously published by KOMU in June 2017.