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Franklin County prosecutor declines to pursue criminal charges in Nieves case

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 10, 2010 - Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Robert E. Parks announced today that he will not be filing criminal charges against state Rep. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, who is accused of assaulting the campaign manager of a rival Republican in this summer's nasty contest for the 26th District state Senate seat.

The altercation allegedly took place in Nieves' campaign office on Aug. 4, the day after he won the nomination. Nieves currently is the heavy favorite to win the Senate seat in the Nov. 2 election.

The campaign worker making the allegations, Shawn Bell, continues to pursue a protective order against Nieves and has hired lawyers for a possible civil suit.

Bell had run the campaign for Richard Stratman, the former mayor of Washington, Mo., and among Nieves' rivals in the primary. Bell previously had worked for Nieves. Among other things, Bell alleges that Nieves flourished a gun and threatened to kill him.

Parks said in a brief statement:

"After a review of the Washington Police Department report 10-1543 alleging Unlawful Use of a Weapon and Assault in the Third Degree, by Brian D. Nieves against Shawn M. Bell, I have not found evidence that would support criminal charges. Therefore, I will not be issuing charges based upon the information in this complaint."

A hearing is still set for Sept. 20 in Cole County on Bell's request for a protective order against Nieves. Sources said that depositions are scheduled to be taken next week.

Nieves' lawyer Michael Payne said in an interview, "We're obviously very pleased with the result. I certainly congratulate the Washington police and the Franklin County prosecutor for their diligence."

Payne said that Parks' decision indicates "that the allegations brought by Mr. Bell are without merit."

Bell's lawyers have yet to return calls seeking comment.

Nieves wrote on his Facebook page this afternoon: "Praise God! The biggest hurdle is behind us! The prosecutor announced criminal charges will NOT be filed! Please keep praying that civil charges be dropped, too!"

Meanwhile, several area Tea Party groups are planning a fund-raising event in Union, Mo., for Nieves on Sept. 18, to raise money for his legal defense fund. 

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.