- Associated Press - Thursday, July 28, 2016

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A judge has rejected conspiracy allegations against Missouri State Highway Patrol commanders named in a federal civil lawsuit over the 2014 drowning of a handcuffed Iowa man at Lake of the Ozarks.

U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey said Wednesday in a ruling that lawyers for the family of Brandon Ellingson failed to prove that 11 commanders and patrol officials conspired to cover up the cause of Ellingson’s death at Lake of the Ozarks, The Kansas City Star reported (https://j.mp/2adf7Bt ).

In May, Laughrey ruled that a jury could consider allegations that Piercy had violated Ellingson’s civil rights.

Wednesday’s ruling means that all counts against individual commanders have been dismissed and won’t proceed to trial in federal court.

“That ruling let everyone off the hook,” said Craig Ellingson, Brandon’s father.



One count against the state of Missouri and the patrol is still active. Also still active and headed for federal trial in mid-October are several counts against Trooper Anthony Piercy, including negligence and a civil rights violation.

Piercy arrested Ellingson on May 31, 2014, on suspicion of boating while intoxicated. As Piercy transported Ellingson to a field office for testing, Ellingson was thrown from the boat. His life vest, which wasn’t properly secured around his handcuffed body, came off and he drowned.

The Ellingson family filed the civil lawsuit on Dec. 5, 2014. The original lawsuit was against the patrol, Piercy, the state of Missouri and several commanders.

The lawsuit came three months after a jury in a Morgan County coroner’s inquest found Ellingson’s death to be an accident. In that inquest, Piercy said he wasn’t properly trained for what he’d encountered the day Ellingson died.

Craig Ellingson said he was disappointed by Wednesday’s ruling. He added that because individual commanders won’t have to stand trial in civil court, he fears little will change in the way the patrol operates.

The patrol declined to comment Thursday on pending litigation.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, https://www.kcstar.com

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