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Court rules for Missouri trooper in Iowa man's drowning

Posted at 3:43 PM, Aug 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-21 18:21:07-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Missouri appeals court has ruled that the former superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol overstepped her authority when she fired a trooper who was driving a boat when a handcuffed Iowa man fell out and drowned.

The appeals court on Tuesday sent the case back to the patrol to determine proper punishment for Trooper Anthony Piercy in the 2014 death of 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson, of Clive, Iowa, at the Lake of the Ozarks.

The Jefferson City News-Tribune reports a patrol review board recommended Piercy be reinstated but transferred out of the Jefferson City troop. Former Superintendent Sandra Karsten fired Piercy in 2017.

Piercy is still fighting to have his law license reinstated after it was revoked twice. A hearing on the appeal is scheduled for early next month.

"The Piercy appellate decision confirms our long-standing position that the colonel of the Highway Patrol cannot terminate a trooper unless a procedural hearing board first recommends termination as an appropriate consequence," Piercy's attorney, Timothy Van Ronzelen said in a statement to 41 Action News. "This decision affirms the protections the Missouri legislature has afforded troopers.

Van Ronzelen went on to note that the "a board unanimously determined termination was not appropriate. That finding was not heeded, which led to litigation and, ultimately, the appellate decision."

The state of Missouri settled a civil suit over the death of Ellingson, a former Arizona State student, for $9 million in November 2016.

"The underlying circumstances leading to Piercy’s termination grew from a tragic situation that continues to weigh heavily on all those involved," Van Ronzelen's statement concluded. "It is my hope that this decision leads to a speedy resolution of all litigation related to the Highway Patrol’s unlawful termination of Tony Piercy."