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Prosecutor testifies about relationship with crime victim

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

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.

ehevern@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

Bloomfield, MO

100 Court St., Jackson, MO


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Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. If you feel that a comment is offensive, please Login or Create an account first, and then you will be able to flag a comment as objectionable. Please also note that those who post comments on semissourian.com may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.

DOes the SEMissourian have any plans to sue to get those emails? Other newspapers do that all the time. Granted some of the information might need to be redacted, but anything that involves the County's time, the County's property, etc. is NEWS and belongs to the public. What are you waiting for? Your paper has ruined enough people by sloppy reporting and refusals to explain complicated matters which you have printed them summarily giving the wrong impressions. This one is a slamdunk. Has anyone asked Morley just how much time away from "work" this matter has taken? I regret wholeheartedly the pain his family has had to endure, and I realize theirs is not the only divorce that has ever happened. BUT, it is with a victim of a crime and he is a prosecutor. If that does not fit into a category of misconduct then categories may need to be re-written. If reporter was in Stoddard County, why didn't someone ask their ace prosecutor for his opinion? Or is he too busy trying to figure out what to do about the years of back taxes he owes? This is at least a story, but about as mild of one as could have been written considering Morley's admission concerning the dates and his prior mis-statement to your newspaper. Does that not offend you or do you like to be played like a fool by the County's highest legal officer?????

-- Posted by casual_observer1 on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 2:10 AM

Yea, come on southeast missourian do your job, lets get these e-mails. as casual observer1 said.

When its one of the good old boys club, the public doesn't get to hear about it. Swingle should RESIGN!!

-- Posted by MWBERGSTROM on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 5:37 AM

Sexual acts in his county office? Will thus be on the agenda at the next county commission meeting. This beats printing pics if Pamela Anderson.

-- Posted by interesting on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 5:43 AM

Why is it any of our business what these private e-mails, on private e-mail accounts say. For those who want to read those e-mails, I'd like to ask how you'd feel about having your personal e-mails published! We are all entitled to a private and personal life. Yes he is a public official and therefore his professional ethics and standards should be questioned, but his personal life is just that, personal.

All else I can say is that it must a slow news day in Cape Girardeau if this is what you're reporting on.

-- Posted by Sassy Elaine on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 6:18 AM

"I'm confident that my actions will be vindicated and that I acted appropriately," he said.

Maybe Morley can get one of those blow up mattresses for his office.

-- Posted by grandma73 on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 7:29 AM

Sassy, don't go there....this IS a big deal newswise.

-- Posted by Agnes on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 8:19 AM

Apparently Morley was more concerned with violating ethics of the bar than God's law concerning marriage.

-- Posted by bluejay_fan_natic20 on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 8:27 AM

I bet those emails would prove that he did indeed violate the ethics code! Someone really should send it to the Mo State Board and turn this snake lawyer in!

-- Posted by Skeptic1 on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 8:33 AM

Bill Clinton, White House.

-- Posted by dollbabies on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 8:36 AM

There is a difference between what the public is interested in (i.e. scandal and gossip) and what is in the interest of the public (i.e. has a bearing on how someone in the public eye does their job).

I am in no away condoning infidelity, however that is a private issue, only concerning the families involved.

How does having this spread over newspapers help them?

And Jitterbug, I will go there, this is not a big deal newswise, this is not news!

-- Posted by Sassy Elaine on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 8:38 AM

Candace Swingle said her husband and Thomasson talked in detail via email about their sexual acts, including in his county office.

Reality is that nothing will happen, morley will continue on and will get re-elected again and again.

Will this be on the agenda at thursdays commissioners meeting. As if he was indeed servicing her in his county office some concern should be raised.

-- Posted by interesting on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 8:51 AM

Oh how the Mighty have fallen! It just goes to show you that the eagle never flies so high that his tail doesn't follow.

-- Posted by Townie1 on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 8:52 AM

Morley should have resigned over this fiasco months ago; he's an embarrassment to the region. Why hasn't this obvious case of misconduct been brought before the Missouri Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel? Why haven't other city leaders been more outspoken about our laughingstock of a Prosecutor? Where are these traditional Republican 'family values' I hear so much about?

-- Posted by SmokeRing on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 8:58 AM

Unfortunately, this is news. If the affair was not with a victim of a crime that his office was responsible for, and all communications were on private email accounts, it could be between the parties, but the fact that it occurred during his official duties and arguably as a result of his official duties makes it a concern for the public. I know them all, and hate to see this played out in the paper, but that was a risk that he took when he got personally involved with a victim in his own case.

The State does not directly represent the crime victim, true, so it doesn't directly impact that particular ethical rule for purposes of bar discipline. I would be more concerned about the misrepresentation as to dates, for disciplinary purposes.

I recall being taught (early in my legal career) that if you have to look for a loophole, it probably isn't ethical in the first place. I actually learned that from Morley; I still remember it, but I guess he has forgotten.

-- Posted by SEMO_Storyteller on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 9:02 AM

Morley is indeed an embarrassment. Both to his family and his office. His resignation should have been written months ago. Yes Sassy, he does have a right to his privacy as long as he keeps it private! He didn't do that did he? Miss Thomasson even made it public when she posted her silly poem on face book! the time has come for Mr.swinger I mean Swingle to resign. His arrogance sickens me.

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 9:13 AM

I would LOVE to see Candace write a book with all the details...now that is a book I would buy!

"the time has come for Mr.swinger I mean Swingle to resign. His arrogance sickens me." posted by Greywolf.... 100% agree.

-- Posted by Skeptic1 on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 9:37 AM

This sounds too good to be true, would make for a great fiction novel one day..

The Spoiled of Cape Girardeau

-- Posted by Tom"killer"Kowalski on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 10:34 AM

Who Cares? He is entitled to make mistakes in his life. He his human just like every other bigot on this board.

-- Posted by NoDisclosure on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 10:52 AM

NoDisclosure , sure! Everyone is entitled to make mistakes, but what you seem to miss here is the fact that Mr. Swingle holds a public office, and HIS mistakes severely clouded his ability to perform the duties of that office because of his intimate involvement with the victim.

Additionally, I don't see that an intimate affair having started on August 30th but not reported until November 12th qualifies as "instant" accountablility as far as Mr. Swingle is concerned. It seems to me that once busted by his wife, he knew his back was up against a wall and that he had to take himself off the case before she exposed the mess he made.

If you ask me, Ms. Swingle has been more than generous in her restraint regarding this entire situation, and I think we would all like to see her rewarded with just punishment for him.

-- Posted by sayswho? on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 11:20 AM

I care NoDisclosure! As I should. He is an elected County official and this behavior says much about his character in general. It has also been reported that some of his indiscretions were while on the job! As for your assertion that several here are "bigots" I simply disagree. I would say, we are concerned about our County and its less than adequate employees.

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 11:51 AM

I care! He is a public official who was having sex with a "victim of crime" while he held public office, and having sex inside his public office. And you call that a simple "mistake"? In one sense you are right... he is just a typical male thinking with his weiner instead of his brain. But on the other hand, he was "doing it" in his public paid for office.

And he is getting by with it. There has been no complaint filed with the Mo law board. He got away with it just like a common criminal that he trys to prosecute.

-- Posted by Skeptic1 on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 12:19 PM

elected officials shouldn't be boning anyone in the county offices...

-- Posted by TommyStix on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 12:37 PM

A smart (and funny) lawyer once told me that no one should be allowed to be a prosecutor who had not, on at least one occasion, waked up in a house of ill repute with no idea how he got there.

The idea, of course is that such a person might have some empathy for the foolish among us and the need for mercy to temper justice. Perhaps Morley will learn some tolerance from this episode.

And, btw, Morley: you did not 'act appropriately' in any particular, in any way, in any fashion, by any stretch of anyone's imagination in this sordid affair.

-- Posted by Pythagoras on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 1:14 PM

"I'm confident that my actions will be vindicated and that I acted appropriately," he said.

Sounds like Morley and Jay Purcell have the same speech writer.

Mr. Swingle's actions caused the taxpayers to hire a special prosecutor. He should at least foot the bill and resign......yesterday.

-- Posted by yy4me on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 2:59 PM

I wasn't suggesting emails are discoverable under sunshine law. Generally, all records of court are public records unless sealed for a cause. In this case, obviously there is personal conduct hurtful to the wife and the children. BUT, the Court can separate that out and unseal anything that is relative to Morley's conduct. DId he send emails from a county computer? On county time? Any county expenses incurred in this fiasco? Any info to prove he lied when he said no involvement when in fact he was communicating with her about more than "facts." A general order sealing the emails is overbroad when part of the conduct occurred is somehow related to the County of Cape Girardeau and by Morley's own admission under oath he gave prior false statements. Judges often seal files, and the press sue to get them unsealed. Sometimes it takes an appellate court. These are simple cases because the law is settled and the judges just need to look at documents. I can understand why the trial judge in the divorce would do it initially bc its easy and in the context of the case before him seems logical. There are interests at stake, however, other than the divorce. The public which pays for the court house, the judges' salaries, the pews for observers to sit in, etc. have a right to trial information except in the rarest of cases. Instead of using a scalpel, the judge agreed to a chain saw in deciding what to deprive the public access to.

-- Posted by casual_observer1 on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 3:04 PM

The County Commission will protect him because he's one of the Good Old Boy network. Mr Purcell and Mr Tracy will see that he gets paid overtime for his "added duties"! However, this man should be dismissed for setting this example of how to use the County workplace.

-- Posted by Working mom on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 3:25 PM

oh that is funny, lmao funny. great point!!

-- Posted by Skeptic1 on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 4:10 PM

Just Me- ok I will...anyone else want to?

http://www.mochiefcounsel.org/ocdc_form....

-- Posted by Skeptic1 on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 4:37 PM

Me'Lange: Many cases unsealed which do not involve public officials therefore Sunshine Law not applicable. Many of the ones sealed in Morley's case may not be government actions subject to Sunshine Law requests. If he sent a letter to his veternarian on his personal computer not subject to Sunshine disclosure just because an elected public official. But also not grounds to seal it either. Without a compelling reason to seal, its open to public. THe court can pick and choose or redact certain sections of documents, but a blanket seal is simply too general and over-reaching, especially when involves public official -- even if both parties agreed to them being sealed. Parties cannot deprive the public access to information when they avail themselves of the court system taxpayers pay for.

-- Posted by casual_observer1 on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 5:55 PM

Who Cares? Are you saying that he couldn't do his job 100% because he was talking dirty on the phone or was boning some chick? Get real, people everyday do the exact same thing with bigger shoes and they aren't ridiculed for their behavior. He's human and that's what he was before he became prosecutor and that is what he is today. I think he should be rewarded for his behavior.

-- Posted by NoDisclosure on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 7:08 PM

Why was Ms. Swingle forced to have to take this to court in the first place? Mr. Swingle should have followed Schwarzenegger's lead, knowing he was guilty and had thrown away his marriage, he is offering even more than the expected 1/2 of what's she's entitled to. I can't believe what a pathetic example of a man Mr. Swingle is with regard to accountabililty for his own wrongdoing - give her what she deserves for crying out loud!

-- Posted by sayswho? on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 7:35 PM

NoDisclosure , I would hate to be your spouse!

-- Posted by sayswho? on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 7:35 PM

So Morley has decided for himself that he hadn't done anything wrong? Lets see: Ms Thomasson's intial relationship with Swingle was as a victim of a crime who obviously was DEPENDING on him for justice and possibly even arranging for financial reparations. Morley then begins having sex with this person. In the medical field where there exists a professional relationship, if you enter into a sexual relationship with them as well it is considered unethical if that person has any sort of dependency on you or if you have influence or control over that person because of your professional role. This kind of thing would be grounds for the State Board to suspend your license immediately. But we're talking lawyers here...so what? Maybe that's ok? We'll see how that's handled. What about it lawyers?

Also how about using a tax payer funded county facility as your love pad... As a taxpayer I'm not happy about paying for any aspect of your sexual dallinances. As far as the paramour here, you could do better...hold out for a motel room with a nice bed.

-- Posted by LocalProfessional on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 7:54 PM

Here's to you Mr. Prosecutor, may every elected official keep it as real as you have. I hope the ultra-conservatives out there go to sleep tonight dreaming they could be as cool as you.

-- Posted by NoDisclosure on Tue, Jul 12, 2011, at 8:57 PM

Wow...didnt know you could sue someone to get their property.

-- Posted by motorcycle_man on Wed, Jul 13, 2011, at 10:37 PM

Oh my lord you people are so quick to judge. If so many of you are so blind to not think your spouse or bf/gf isnt cheating on you, you need to wake up, it happens all the time with a majority of the population, studies suggect 75 percent. And it doesnt affect your job geez you guys are nuts. If Joe the car mechanic is banging another chick while married should he stop working on your car? Unless he's banging this chick in the middle of a criminal trial on the judges stand in front of the jury then leave him alone, Ive seen that man in action and let me tell you Cape County, your beyond lucky to have him as your prosecutor. Grow up and start checking your own husband or wives e-mails and phones you crybabies. And to many of you thinking your spouse isnt like that think again, I cant count how many married woman Ive you know what with and they were all happily married with kids and fairytale little lives.

-- Posted by BookemDano on Thu, Jul 14, 2011, at 1:32 AM

I actually think BookemDano has a point, although ethically, as a lawyer, as a husband, as someone who knew the "victim"'s parents, the very capable prosecutor did not, as locallawyer states, act in any way appropriately.

-- Posted by sophie on Thu, Jul 14, 2011, at 1:02 PM

What angers me so much about this story is that this same man will represent others in court, saying how they should withhold justice and truth. When some of these same people have had disheartening experiences with men.. even young women and girls. Then they can look back and see exactly what this Prosecutor has done to withhold the law in his own wonderful life. Seems kind of like a slap in the face if you ask me. This is the reason that I feel he should resign... he's not worthy of his title. Sorry.

-- Posted by Hot Dog on Fri, Jul 15, 2011, at 11:13 PM

You are no longer relevant Mr. swingle. Do the only honorable thing you can....Resign Immediately!

-- Posted by luvbball15 on Mon, Jul 18, 2011, at 11:48 AM

You are no longer relevant Mr. swingle. Do the only honorable thing you can....Resign Immediately!

-- Posted by luvbball15 on Mon, Jul 18, 2011, at 11:48 AM

You are no longer relevant Mr. swingle. Do the only honorable thing you can....Resign Immediately!

-- Posted by luvbball15 on Mon, Jul 18, 2011, at 11:49 AM

This is really good stuff. A morally corrupt prosecutor being sued for divorce in a neighboring county, where that prosecutor was sued bt the I.R.S. Only in SEMO!

-- Posted by castaway2 on Sun, Jul 24, 2011, at 7:11 PM


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