Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Bob Parks has decided to not file criminal charges against Brian Nieves, a state representative accused of battering and threatening to kill the campaign worker of a former rival in the August primary election.
Parks said after reviewing police reports in the case that he could not prove to a jury "beyond a reasonable doubt" that Nieves committed a criminal act.
"After a review of the Washington Police Department report 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," Parks said in a prepared statement released Friday.
Bell, who lives in Jefferson City, managed the campaign of Dick Stratman, Washington, who lost to Nieves in the Aug. 3 Republican primary election for the 26th District state Senate seat.
A hearing is scheduled Monday, Sept. 20, in Jefferson City in a separate civil court proceeding in connection with the incident. The hearing will be on a petition filed by Bell seeking an order of protection against Nieves.
Bell filed a complaint with Washington police claiming that Nieves assaulted him, pulled out a handgun and threatened to kill him Aug. 4, the day after the primary, when he went to Nieves' campaign headquarters to offer congratulations on the victory.
"I believe there was an argument between the two and that there was a verbal confrontation. But I can't prove a criminal act by either person," Parks told The Missourian.
A problem is the conflicting statements by Bell - who claims Nieves grabbed him by the shirt, pushed him against a wall, slapped him, head-butted him and pulled out a gun and set it on a table - and Nieves who concedes there was a shouting match but no physical violence.
Dave Bailey, Nieves' committee chairman, was present when the encounter happened and he sides with Nieves in claiming that there was no physical contact between the two.
In an interview with police, Bailey said at one point that he saw Bell down on his hands and knees apologizing to Nieves but that he was not forced to do that. He said he did not see Nieves brandish a gun. When asked by police, Bailey declined to provide a written statement.
"Based on the reports and evidence I've received, I cannot prove there was anything more than that," Parks said about the confrontation.
"The only thing I can prove is that three people were in that office at the time, that Brian and Shawn were engaged in a shouting match, that Shawn left and returned to get his sunglasses, left again and that Brian and Shawn exchanged text messages as Shawn was driving to Jefferson City," Parks said.
Bell, a Republican political consultant, said in his statement to police that he was leaving Washington to return to Jefferson City and when he drove by Nieves' headquarters he saw a vehicle belonging to Bailey parked outside so he stopped to congratulate him on the campaign. Bell said after he went inside, Nieves came up behind him and grabbed him and pushed him against the wall.
At one point, Bell claims Nieves dragged him into another room and ordered him to remove his shirt to prove he was not wearing a wire. Bailey told police he was not present in that room.
Nieves also ordered Bell to phone his wife, Julie, to apologize for some of his tactics in the campaign and for allegedly "flipping them off" when they were driving in town.
In her statement to police, Julie Nieves acknowledged that her husband had called her at work and put Bell on the phone who "was apologizing profusely" about the way things went during the campaign, however he would not admit to having "flipped off" Nieves and her when they were in their car with their children.
Julie Nieves also told police she talked to Bell about a mass mailing that listed people who Brian Nieves allegedly was having affairs with.
Police also interviewed James Harris, Bell's employer, who took Bell to the Missouri Highway Patrol headquarters in Jefferson City to report the incident. The patrol instructed him to file the complaint with Washington police. Harris came back to Washington with Bell to file the police report.
Harris told police that Nieves has "been known" to get into heated confrontations with other state representatives in Jefferson City and has had to be pulled away in order to prevent physical confrontations.
Nieves, the House majority whip, was elected to the Legislature in 2002 and can't run for another term in the House because of term limits.
In 2008, Nieves was involved in a dispute on the House floor with Rep. Trent Skaggs, D-North Kansas City, who claimed some lawmakers who supported a tax credit for special-needs students who switched schools did so because of political contributions.
The next day, an argument broke out between Skaggs and Nieves, who supported the tax credit. Skaggs tapped Nieves twice on the cheek with an open hand, and they had to be separated by staff and fellow legislators, the Associated Press reported.
Nieves will face Democrat George "Boots" Weber, Eureka, in the November general election.