State Rep. Brian Nieves, the winner of a bruising GOP primary election for state Senate, now claims the man who accused him of assault wanted to end the relationship with his boss, James Harris, because he made him do "shady and illegal things."
Nieves made the allegation in a lengthy e-mail statement sent Monday to supporters and the media just days after Franklin County Prosecutor Bob Parks announced his decision to not file criminal charges against the lawmaker over an incident in which Shawn Bell, a campaign worker of one of his primary opponents, claimed Nieves assaulted and threatened to kill him.
Nieves' comments are the latest barbs in what has been an ongoing battle between him and the campaign team of former Washington Mayor Dick Stratman who lost to Nieves in the Republican primary.
It is the first time Nieves has alleged that Bell told him Harris was engaged in "illegal things," a statement Bell said he never made.
"I never said that," Bell said Tuesday. "I probably would have said anything to get out of that office but I never said anything like that.
"In all my time working for James, he has been nothing but professional. I've never done anything illegal nor was I forced to do anything illegal. He never once pressured me to do anything. He's (Nieves) trying to demean my boss. This is insulting beyond belief," Bell told The Missourian.
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.
Bell, who lives in Jefferson City, works for Harris, a political consultant who helped manage Stratman's primary campaign.
Nieves claimed 44 percent of the vote, more than double the votes for Stratman.
In the e-mail, Nieves asks supporters for donations to his legal defense fund to fight a restraining order filed by Bell in Cole County. That case is set for a hearing on Sept. 20. Depositions are scheduled this week in Franklin County.
Bell said he also will pursue a civil lawsuit for damages against Nieves and expects to file the suit later this week.
Nieves, in the e-mail, said the civil case being pursued by Bell borders on malicious prosecution. "Shawn's team is seeking a restraining order against me and seems to be using this legal tool as a means to further punish me and my family," Nieves said in the e-mail.
Harris said he never forced Bell to do anything illegal and called Nieves' statements "baffling" and the "weirdest thing I've ever heard."
"I didn't tell Shawn to do anything. His (Nieves') comments are laughable. None of this is good for my business. But there is a matter of what's right is right. If someone is a victim of an alleged crime they have the right to pursue it," he told The Missourian.
In the statement, Nieves said he had no idea what the "shady or illegal" things Harris was involved in nor did he agree with Bell's statement that he was actually involved in anything illegal.
"We have no idea what kind of ‘shady' or ‘illegal' stuff Shawn may have been referring to but I can tell you that in my opinion, Shawn wanted to terminate his relationship with James Harris. Shawn repeatedly asked me to not stand in the way of him seeking employment with political people who do not have the bad reputation he believed Harris to have and who will not, in Shawn's words, ‘make me do shady and illegal stuff.'"
Nieves said he told Bell he should terminate his relationship with Harris and that he hoped Harris wouldn't force him to perjure himself.
Bell said he regretted going to Nieves' campaign office the day after the election but he didn't expect Nieves to be there because he didn't see his car out-front.
"If I knew Brian was going to be there I wouldn't have gone in. It would have been more appropriate to congratulate him in a different, more public setting. But I wanted to congratulate his campaign manager and Dave Bailey on a good job. I felt they should hear it from me," Bell explained.
Bell said he worked on Nieves' campaign in the third quarter of 2009 while employed by Rod Jetton, the former Missouri Speaker of the House. He said that he wrote campaign donation materials and helped organize a fundraiser for him in the fall of 2009 at the St. Louis Gun Club in Pacific.
"Brian and I knew each other because I had worked on his campaign. We weren't real close but we spoke on the telephone and exchanged e-mails. He understood that when we closed Rod's operation in December that I was looking for work. I saw him at a fundraiser and when I told him I had gone to work for James he said he understood and said he was glad I found a job.
"The funny thing about all of this is that I probably would have been working on Brian's campaign if things would have worked out differently with Rod," he added.
Nieves did not return calls from The Missourian seeking comment on this story.
There's no mention in the Washington police report about the comment Nieves is attributing to Bell.