UPDATE: Missouri House representative accused of threatening rival's aide

Monday, August 9, 2010 | 6:28 p.m. CDT; updated 6:36 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 9, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — Police said Monday they are investigating allegations that a state Senate candidate from eastern Missouri threatened a political rival's campaign manager.

Shawn Bell, who worked for Dick Stratman, filed a complaint against House Majority Whip Brian Nieves on Thursday in Washington, Mo. Police Chief Ken Hahn confirmed Monday that an investigation had been launched but said it was in its preliminary stages.

Nieves, 45, of Washington, won an intense four-way Republican primary last week in the state Senate district covering Franklin and Warren counties and part of St. Louis County. He claimed 44 percent of the vote and earned more than twice as many as Stratman.

In the statement to police that The Associated Press obtained Monday, the 24-year-old Bell said he stopped by Nieves' campaign after the primary to offer congratulations to an aide there, but Nieves threw him up against a wall. Then, Nieves pulled a black gun out of his pocket, set it on a table and said he was going to kill Bell, according to the statement. Nieves later calmed down and said he wouldn't kill him or put him in the hospital.

Nieves did not immediately return calls seeking comment left at his home and campaign office.

The statement goes on to say that Nieves checked Bell for a recording wire before head-butting him and slapping him several times. Then he dragged Bell into a kitchen area and ordered him to remove his shirt and get on his knees and beg for forgiveness.

Nieves told Bell everyone needs a "therapeutic" fight in which they get beat up, but instead of fighting him, ordered him to walk into an office. Nieves then started reading text messages on Bell's cell phone and began writing down what some said. Nieves also told Bell to call the representative's wife and apologize because she was hurt by some of the rumors circulating during the campaign, according to the report.

Bell, who lives in Jefferson City and works for a political consulting firm there, referred a request for comment to his attorney. The attorney said he had spoken with Bell but had not officially been retained to represent him.

In the statement filed with police, Bell said Nieves told him he would let him leave if didn't tell anyone about the incident and suggested Bell call him periodically to improve their relationship. Bell said he was shaken up.

"I really thought when he pulled out the gun that I was going to die," Bell wrote.

According to court records, a hearing is scheduled in Cole County this week about Bell's request for a protection order against Nieves.

Senate Majority Leader Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said Monday he didn't know the details of the allegations. Conduct during the primary was a concern and warranted setting up rules of engagement to rein in political consultants and make the next round of GOP primaries more civil, he said.

"I know that it was a hot and heavy race. I know that it was not a good atmosphere in the whole race and afterward," Engler said.

Nieves was elected to the General Assembly in 2002 and can't run for another term in the House because of term-limits. His official biography says he joined the U.S. Navy in 1984 and served for a decade as a corpsman. He owns two small businesses and has worked as a substitute teacher.

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.

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