Trooper Anthony Piercy was piloting a boat in May, 2014, with a 20-year-old in custody, when the man fell off.
Piercy was set to go to trial for an involuntary manslaughter charge. But Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.
Craig Ellingson says Tuesday’s plea by Piercy gets his family one step closer to ending this saga.
“Had him handcuffed from behind, and was it was gross negligence. And had no compassion for my son’s life based on what he did to my son.”
Piercy pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of negligent operation of a vessel.
He admitted that handcuffing 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson behind his back and putting the wrong kind of life vest over his head was criminal negligence.
Craig Ellingson says the plea lets the family avoid a trial, in which he fears the Patrol would try to smear his son’s name.
“It would’ve probably been a hung jury, we’d have to try it again. And my family’s been through enough for the last three years. It’s time to let Brandon rest in peace.”
Brandon Ellingson had been taking into custody for boating while intoxicated.
Piercy, who hadn’t spent much time has a Water Patrol officer at that point, lost Ellingson when his patrol boat hit a wake, sending Ellingson overboard, and the life vest off.
“Even though it’s a lesser charge, but he’s still admitting guilt. His ultimate judge will be God,” Craig Ellingson said.
Piercy faces a maximum of six months in jail. But his attorney says if the sentencing assessment report recommends anything greater than probation, Piercy can withdraw his guilty plea.
That sentencing hearing is scheduled for September 8th.
The Ellingson family settled a $9-million wrongful death lawsuit against Piercy and the Highway Patrol last year.
Report courtesy of KOLR10 and CNN.