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Former aide to 2010 rival files personal-injury lawsuit against Nieves

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 14, 2011 - A breakdown in settlement talks led to a lawsuit filed today in Franklin County against state Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington.

The civil suit stems from an alleged incident last August in which an aide to a rival candidate contends that Nieves threatened him with a gun and head-butted him. The aide, Shawn Bell, filed the suit, which seeks more than $25,000 in damages.

Bell's lawyer, Alan Mandel, said the lawsuit accuses Nieves of false imprisonment, assault and "intentional infliction of emotional distress."

Bell had planned to file a lawsuit last fall but held off while negotiations continued. The Franklin County prosecutor declined to file criminal charges, citing lack of evidence.

Mandel said the civil suit was filed "because discussions between the parties to resolve the situation failed to come to fruition."

He added that Bell, who now lives in another state, is not primarily interested in financial damages. "The main thrust of the lawsuit is in deterring Mr. Nieves' behavior," Mandel said.

The suit comes just days after several 26th District residents filed a formal complaintagainst Nieves with the state Senate's ethics panel. The residents, retired teachers, contended that Nieves mistreated and bullied them during a contentious meeting last month in the state Capitol.

Nieves could not be reached for comment. But earlier, he disputed Bell's account of their August 2010 meeting and the allegations of the retired teachers. A prayer vigil was held in defense of Nieves last year in a Washington, Mo., park.

Mandel said that Bell felt he had to take action because Nieves has continued to post verbal jabs on social-media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

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