43rd Circuit Court Judge Brent Elliott has been accused of misconduct in at least four separate cases (Standiford v. Standiford, Ashford v. Merkley, State v. Gross, and more recently – State v. Woodworth). The allegations related to the first three cases were printed in a December 2012 issue of Missouri Lawyers Weekly. Michele Puckett, of Cameron, was the attorney who brought the accusations forward. She alleges that Judge Elliott removed and destroyed questionable records from two case files in DeKalb County, just one day after he won the August 2012 Missouri Primary Election.
Puckett said she first noticed Elliott’s “unethical” behavior after she made a campaign contribution of $500 to his opponent Bill Burris. “He became more and more aggressive throughout 2012 and, frankly, that’s what prompted me to support his opponent,” Puckett said in an interview Tuesday.
According to the Missouri Lawyers article by Scott Lauck, Puckett’s allegations were made before Associate Judge Bart Spear during a December 17th probation revocation hearing of a 19-year-old Cameron man. Aside from allegedly destroying the documents in the Standiford and Ashford civil cases, Judge Elliott was also accused by Puckett of misconduct in a previous case against the Cameron teen. Puckett claimed Judge Elliott interviewed witnesses without disclosing the conversations to the attorneys in the case.
Lauck’s writing later caught the attention of one high-profile attorney, Robert Ramsey. Ramsey represents Chillicothe resident Mark Woodworth. Click to hear KMZU’s Chelsea Wade talk with Puckett and Ramsey:
Judge Elliott’s behavior was brought into question during a hearing in the Woodworth case on Monday. Woodworth was convicted twice in the 1990 shooting death of his neighbor Cathy Robertson. The Missouri Supreme Court overturned the ruling in early January. One month later, Woodworth was released on bond as the state prepares to try him for a third time.
In an interview with KMZU News on Tuesday, Ramsey said he intends to put the state on trial. “We plan to show all of these characters’ lack of integrity and credibility. That includes Judge [Kenneth] Lewis, the investigators, and the attorneys that participated in this.”
Elliott, who served as a private attorney at the time of the Woodworth investigation and who Ramsey said regularly consulted with private investigator Terry Diester, was listed as a focal point in Special Master Judge Gary Oxenhandler’s report. Ramsey adds that Puckett’s allegations against Elliott show a pattern of misconduct. “Over the last 11 years, I have encountered missing documents, missing files, and vital information that is hidden from the litigants, from the defendants, and people in front of court. It was going on [during Woodworth's proceedings] and it is going on now. It seems to me that one situation sort of proves the other,” Ramsey stated.
In the Woodworth case, Ramsey cited one file in particular, which dealt with an order of protection by Rochelle Robertson against Brandon Hagan (Thomure), that allegedly went missing. Ramsey said it was later found in another county. According to Ramsey, Elliott was the attorney of record at the time. Ramsey also alleges that Grand Jury transcripts and case files involving Jim Johnson could also not be found. (Jim Johnson, according to the special master’s report, was a “full-time, small-time thief specializing in stealing farm products, grains and chemicals in Livingston and adjacent counties. Johnson purportedly had testimony that would incriminate Woodworth).
Puckett agreed with Ramsey’s statement about Elliott’s behavior saying the questionable acts are concerning. “Sometimes the best indicator of the future is the past, and they look remarkably similar. I’m hoping that the Missouri Bar steps up and looks at this seriously. I think that is important for the protection of the general public and further to enhance the general public’s perception of some confidence and integrity in the system.”
Judge Elliott did not return phone calls by KMZU News seeking comment. According to Lauck’s article, Judge Elliott told him that “judicial ethics prevented him from talking about pending cases.”
Due to copyright laws, the full article by Scott Lauck could not be published on kmzu.com. To read the full version click here.