BLOOMFIELD, Mo. -- Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle testified at his divorce proceedings Monday that he was involved in a romantic relationship with a victim in a 2009 embezzlement case several weeks before taking himself off the case.
The romantic relationship began before his recusal, according to testimony he and his estranged Candace Swingle gave at the divorce trial.
Morley Swingle testified the intimate relationship began with Lane Thomasson after Aug. 30, 2010, although the pair exchanged personal emails beginning Aug. 7 when she was in London. Thomasson was the victim in the case involving Joe T. Buerkle, a former local lawyer who was sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing $325,000 from the trust fund of Thomasson's late father. Buerkle pleaded guilty in the case Aug. 30 and was sentenced Feb. 22.
Swingle worked on the case until Nov. 12, the date he asked a judge to have a special prosecutor take over. When questioned by the Southeast Missourian in January, Swingle said when an attorney develops a conflict in a case he or she is required to get a special prosecutor appointed.
"And I did that instantly," he said, without giving details of the conflict of interest at that time.
Candace Swingle testified that she became aware of her husband's infidelity by reading hundreds of emails. One set of emails, she said, was found Aug. 14, and another was found on Oct. 13. A large stack of printed emails was presented to the court, but their specific contents were sealed by the judge.
While emails before Aug. 14 didn't indicate a physical relationship, according to Candace Swingle they detailed Swingle and Thomasson's plans to be intimate when she came to the United States for a plea hearing. Candace Swingle said her husband and Thomasson talked in detail via email about their sexual acts, including in his county office.
Morley Swingle was not questioned extensively about the emails' contents or his sexual relationship with 29-year-old Thomasson, but more so about the expenditures to travel to see Thomasson in London. All were put on a personal credit card. When emails turned personal, he said he only wrote to Thomasson via two personal email accounts.
Swingle was asked in court whether he was concerned that his actions would end up before an ethics commission. "To some degree, but once I researched it and realized there was not [a violation] I was not concerned," he said.
In January, Morley Swingle said he wasn't worried about a complaint from the Missouri Bar.
"I'm confident that my actions will be vindicated and that I acted appropriately," he said.
Swingle is in good standing with the Missouri Bar and has had no public discipline against him within the last three years, according to the state's Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, an agency of the state Missouri Supreme Court responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by lawyers.
Staff writer Scott Moyers contributed to this report.
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