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Franklin County prosecutor declines to pursue criminal charges in Nieves case

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 one of 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. 

Here are some of the Beacon's earlier stories on this case:

-- Hearing for order of protection against Nieves postponed a second time

-- Nieves claims Missouri 'kingmakers' seek to destroy his political career

-- Politically prominent lawyers hired by campaign aide alleging misdeeds by Nieves

-- State Rep. Nieves uses radio show to discuss campaign, rivals question fairness

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.

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