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Politically prominent lawyers hired by campaign aide alleging misdeeds by Nieves

With legal fights looming, state Rep. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, is becoming more visible and vocal in defending himself against accusations that he threatened and assaulted a campaign worker for a GOP rival.

The first related court hearing, originally set for Thursday morning in Cole County, has been postponed until Sept. 2.

That hearing is on a protection order sought by the worker, Shawn Bell, who accuses Nieves of displaying a gun during a contentious altercation in the legislator's Washington, Mo., office the day after the Aug. 3 primary.

Nieves won a four-way contest for the Republican nomination for the state Senate in the 26th District, which takes in parts of St. Louis and Franklin counties. Bell was the campaign manager for one of his rivals, former Washington Mayor Richard Stratman.

Bell filed a detailed complaint with the police in Washington, Mo., who say they are investigating and will forward their conclusions to the local prosecuting attorney.

Bell appears to have a bipartisan group of lawyers working on his case. His lawyer for the protection order is with the Kansas City law firm of former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, who's the brother of U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio.

Bell also has been working with Springfield, Mo., lawyer Joseph Passanise, a trial lawyer who's prominent in Republican circles and was the campaign treasurer for now-GOP state auditor nominee Tom Schweich.

In St. Louis, Bell is represented by Alan Mandel, a civil-suit lawyer who is the husband of Annette Mandel, the former mayor of Creve Coeur. The Mandels are prominent Democrats.

Mandel has said he is preparing a civil suit against Nieves, which the lawyer says he plans to file within days.

Nieves is represented by Michael Payne, a lawyer in Clayton.

Late Wednesday, Nieves posted a Tweet professing his innocence, and then sent a long e-mail to various allies, who have been circulating his message Thursday to reporters all over the state.

Among other things, Nieves accused his Republican critics of being behind Bell's accusations.

Nieves wrote, "Let’s think about this for just a minute and ask ourselves about what's really happening here. 'WE' won an election that 'they' didn’t want us to win and did not believe we could win. We did something The Machine did not want done and for that the Nieves family is indeed being punished and made an example of! We all know that the 'Old Guard' is very much threatened by all of us who will NOT bow down to The Machine and they are willing to literally destroy a man’s life to make sure nobody else gets the bright idea of standing up to them!"

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.