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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 complaint against 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 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.

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