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Former Boone County assistant prosecutor faces discipline for inappropriate messages, activities


The Missouri Supreme Court will decide whether to suspend the license of a former Boone County assistant prosecutor after allegations of having inappropriate relationships with defendants and crime victims.

The Missouri Supreme Court's Office of Disciplinary Counsel levied accusations that Morley Swingle was guilty of professional misconduct stemming from two separate incidents. A Missouri Supreme Court advisory committee reviewed the allegations in a hearing Tuesday.

The first set of allegations is related to Swingle texting and doing favors for a defendant and witness in a 2020 Columbia murder. The texts started with Swingle requesting check-ins from the defendant, but slowly evolved into more personal conversations, according to a complaint filed by the disciplinary counsel. The texts included a request from Swingle for the woman's picture and Swingle took measures not outlined in the woman's plea agreement such as writing her reference letters for housing.

The complaint says Dan Knight, Boone County prosecuting attorney at the time, was made aware of Swingle's actions after the woman spoke with a lawyer, who reported the conduct.

The second set of allegations is related to Swingle's conduct with a woman he met on the dating app Tinder in February 2021. In the conversation, he revealed he was a prosecuting attorney in Columbia who handles mostly murder cases, according to the complaint. The woman revealed she was a single mother of children whose father was murdered in Columbia in 2020. After learning more details, Swingle responded and let her know he was the one handling the prosecution in the case. They exchanged phone numbers and he told her she could reach out to him any time.

Swingle filed a grand jury indictment charging the defendant in the murder case with armed criminal action and murder and then exchanged numerous texts with the woman, gave her gifts of more than $520 and made arrangements for her to come to his house, according to the complaint

Swingle never disclosed any of these interactions to the defense.

The disciplinary counsel accused Swingle of violating rules against conflict of interest, against a lawyer being a witness, of violating a prosecutor's responsibilities and conduct that hurts the administration of justice.

Swingle did not dispute most of the allegations, expressing regret over his decision-making.

"I wish I could have a do-over," Swingle said. "I feel ashamed of what happened and who I let down. Five to 10 minutes of my life were spent acting inappropriately. Now, my reputation is tainted. I harmed the legal profession and I am sorry."

The advisory committee recommended an indefinite license suspension with the ability to apply for reinstatement after two years. The Missouri Supreme Court will make the final decision.

Swingle has not been practicing since May 13, 2021, after resigning. Swingle lost a bid Tuesday to have those 16 months count as time served on his license suspension, but the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel rejected that proposal.

Swingle was licensed in 1980 and has a history of prosecuting murder cases. He was recruited to help out in Boone County with major cases.

Swingle was the elected prosecutor in Cape Girardeau County from 1987 to 2012. During that time, he was "admonished" by the court for having a relationship with a crime victim in an active case.

Since then Swingle has also been an assistant U.S. attorney and an assistant St. Louis circuit attorney.

Article Topic Follows: Boone

Ethan Heinz


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