Lance Mason during court proceedings in 2015. (Chuck Crow, The Plain Dealer)
SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio -- Lance Mason, who was accused Saturday of fatally stabbed his estranged wife at her home, had served as a former prosecutor, state lawmaker and Common Pleas judge.
But Mason’s fall from grace began four years earlier, in 2014, when he brutally beat his wife in front of his two young children.
At the time of the attack on his wife, Aisha Fraser, Mason was a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to the attack, during which he punched his wife 20 times and slammed her head against the dashboard of his car five times, breaking an orbital bone.
Here’s how Lance Mason went from being a respected public official, to felon, to City of Cleveland employee, to murder suspect:
Mason was born on Aug. 26, 1967, according to court records. He told Crain’s Cleveland Business in 2001 that he graduated from Shaker Heights High School and received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the College of Wooster. He went on to receive a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1992.
1992 - 1995
Mason’s first job out of law school was with the regulatory division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He handled cases such as the prosecution of meat producers who masked spoiled meat with chemicals, he told Crain’s Cleveland.
1996 - 1999
Mason then served as an assistant prosecutor in Cuyahoga County, according to his Ohio Statehouse page. He handled several felony cases, including capital murder, kidnapping, felonious assaults, rapes and robberies.
During his time as assistant prosecutor, Stephanie Tubbs Jones was the county prosecutor. When Tubbs Jones succeeded retiring U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes in 1999, she tapped Mason to join her congressional staff.
1999 - 2002
As an aide to U.S. Rep. Tubbs Jones, Mason was in charge of the congresswoman’s district office, handling the day-to-day tasks of organizing meetings and community events.
After a few years as a congressional district director, Mason was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Ohio House of Representatives.
2002 - 2008
At the end of his appointment, he won reelection from the 8th District in both 2002 and 2004. Mason, a Democrat, served as assistant minority whip during his final year.
He was elected in 2006 to the Ohio Senate where he represented the 25th District. Mason also worked for about a decade as a private practice lawyer, according to his Ohio Statehouse page.
Aug. 2008 - Aug. 2014
Gov. Ted Strickland announced in August 2008 that he was appointing Mason to fill a vacancy on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, cleveland.com reported. He resigned from his Ohio Senate seat to take the job.
Mason earned $76,173 per year as a state senator, and $121,350 as a judge, according to cleveland.com.
Aug. 2, 2014
A woman exiting an RTA train about 12:10 p.m. called police after witnessing two people fighting inside an orange SUV driving down Van Aken Boulevard in Shaker Heights.
The caller said the SUV slammed on the brakes in the middle of the road. The caller said she saw “fists flying” inside the car.
Aisha Fraser Mason called 911 about 12:15 p.m. saying her husband attacked her in front of her two young children and threw her from their SUV.
Fraser Mason called 911 and flagged down a passing driver who drove her to South Pointe Hospital in Warrensville Heights.
Cleveland police arrested Mason about 12:45 p.m. and confiscated smoke grenades, semi-automatic rifles, a sword, a bulletproof vest and more than 2,500 rounds of ammunition from the couple’s home.
A member of Mason’s family called Cleveland police to say she was afraid he was going to use weapons inside his home to commit suicide, the report said.
Police arrived and Mason surrendered. Once inside a police car, he admitted to having weapons in his bedroom and the attic of his home. Mason was taken to Shaker Heights Municipal Jail.
Aug. 4, 2014
Shaker Heights officials announced Mason had been arrested and Fraser Mason was hospitalized following an attack that took place in both private and public.
Prosecutors charged Mason with assault, a second-degree felony.
Charging documents indicated that Mason punched his wife 20 times and slammed her head against the dashboard of the car five times, breaking an orbital bone. She needed to get facial reconstructive surgery as a result of the incident. Their daughters, ages 6 and 4 at the time, were in the backseat.
Fraser Mason filed for divorce. Their divorce is still not finalized, court records show.
A Shaker Heights Municipal Court judge granted a protection order against Mason, barring him from being within 500 feet of his wife or children, cleveland.com reported.
Aug. 13, 2015
More than a year after the incident, Mason pleaded guilty to attempted felonious assault and domestic violence, cleveland.com reported.
A few weeks after, the Ohio Supreme Court suspended Mason from practicing law. He submitted his resignation as a judge on Sept. 15, 2015.
Sept. 16, 2015
Mason was sentenced by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove to two years in prison.
He served nine months and was released in June 2016, cleveland.com reported.
Suspended indefinitely from practicing law, Mason remained out of the public eye after being released from jail. He was ordered to pay a $150,000 judgment to Fraser Mason in a civil case for damages after the attack.
His name reemerged in the fall of 2017 after he was hired by Mayor Frank Jackson in late August as Cleveland’s director of minority business development.
Mason was one of 13 candidates for the position, but was handpicked by Jackson, who was up for re-election.
A city official said Mason was the most qualified applicant for the $45,000-a-year job.
Jackson won re-election and Mason continued to work for the City of Cleveland.
Nov. 17, 2018
Shaker Heights police responded about 9:30 a.m. to a home on the 17600 block of Chagrin Boulevard for a domestic dispute thatsources said involved Mason and Fraser Mason.
Mason had fatally stabbed Fraser Mason, sources told cleveland.com. Mason tried to flee the scene in a black Audi SUV, but struck a Shaker Heights police SUV, injuring both the officer and himself.
Mason and the officer were each taken to the hospital Saturday.
Mayor Frank Jackson terminated Mason’s employment Saturday evening based on felony charges stemming from the incident in Shaker Heights.
“I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Ms. Aisha Fraser, especially to her children,” Jackson said in a statement.
Fraser, 45, was remembered Saturday as a beloved Shaker Heights elementary school teacher.
“Aisha exemplified the best of Shaker Heights teachers; smart, amazingly caring of her students and her colleagues, active in her profession and in our association,” the Shaker Heights Teachers' Association said Saturday. “She is loved by many.”
Published on Monday, November 19, 2018 @ 4:45 AM CDT
Liberals aren’t stupid. Conservatives aren’t racist. The people we disagree with are not our enemies
I’m a rock-ribbed conservative who wants Republicans to keep control of Congress. But I’m not unhappy that Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone appears to have lost the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District.
Why? Because he insulted my mother.
Trailing his Democratic opponent in a district President Donald Trump won by 20 points, but which still has more registered Democrats than Republicans, Saccone hit on a genius idea to turn out the vote: At a campaign rally just before voters went to the polls, he declared that liberals hate America and hate God. “I’ve talked to so many of these on the left,” he said. “And I tell you, many of them have a hatred for our country. … My wife and I saw it again today: They have a hatred for God.”
My mother is a liberal Democrat, and I can tell you: She does not hate America or God. Quite the opposite — she is one of the most patriotic people I know. She grew up in Nazi-occupied Poland, fought with the Polish underground, was taken to Germany as a prisoner of war, was liberated by Patton’s Army and moved to London. Eventually, she became a doctor and made her way to the United States, where she became a U.S. citizen.
There is no one prouder to be an American. When Poland held its first free elections in 1989, Polish Americans living in the United States were invited to vote. Many did so, but my mom refused. She loved the land of her birth, but she was an American citizen now and would not vote in a foreign election. When someone hears her thick Polish accent they often ask, “Where are you from?” She answers proudly: “New York City.”
She’s also a proud Democrat. We disagree about politics, but we both love America and want to make this country great. We just have different ideas about the best ways to do it.
So when Saccone says liberals hate America, he’s talking about my mother. I take it personally. And you should, too.
Whether you are liberal, conservative or in between, I’ll bet that you have a loved one who disagrees with you about politics. It might be a sibling or a parent or a beloved cousin, aunt or uncle — or even your kids. We should not stand for politicians from either party who insult them or question their motives or their patriotism.
Too often, politicians on both the left and right do just that. We saw this recently when, during an event in India, Hillary Clinton insultingly claimed that Trump won the parts of the country that weren’t “moving forward.” She said those voters liked what she characterized as Trump’s message that “you know you didn’t like black people getting rights. You don’t like women, you know, getting jobs. You don’t want, you know, to see that Indian American succeeding more than you are.” If you have a loved one who didn’t vote for Clinton in 2016, you should be offended. I doubt the people you love are against civil rights, or women working, or people of color succeeding. They just thought Clinton was a terrible choice for president — an impression she confirmed with those comments.
We see it in the gun control debate that followed the Parkland, Fla., school shooting. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said that if you’re not in favor of immediate action on guns, “you’re an accomplice” to the Parkland killer. Seriously? Do you have a loved one who disagrees with you about gun control? Are they accomplices to mass murder? No, they just disagree that gun control is the solution.
The problem exists on both sides of the aisle, and it’s not just politicians. American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks recalls how a few years ago he was giving a speech at a large conservative event. “I said that while my own views are center-right, I have no reason to believe progressives are stupid or evil,” he recalls. “An audience member countered, ‘You’re wrong: They are stupid and evil.’”
Progressives are not stupid and evil. Conservatives are not racists and misogynists. Our fellow Americans who disagree with us are not our enemies. They are our fellow Americans who differ with us. And we should not put up with politicians, on the left or right, who can’t seem to understand this.
Published on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 @ 4:57 PM CDT
‘When you Google evangelicals, you get Trump’: High-profile evangelicals will meet privately to discuss their future
About 50 top leaders of major evangelical institutions will attend an invitation-only gathering next week to discuss the future and the “soul” of evangelicalism at a time when many of them are concerned their faith group has become tainted by its association with divisive politics under President Trump.
The diverse group, which includes nationally known pastors such as Tim Keller and A.R. Bernard, is expected to include leaders of major ministries, denominations, colleges and seminaries. The gathering will take place at Wheaton College, an evangelical college outside of Chicago, according to organizer Doug Birdsall, honorary chair of Lausanne, an international movement of evangelicals.
The gathering, which has been in the works for several months and was discussed at evangelist Billy Graham’s funeral last month, will take place before the expected meeting of a separate group of evangelicals who advise, defend and praise Trump. Those leaders, which include members of Trump’s informal advisory council, are considering convening at Trump International Hotel in Washington in June.
The purpose of the Wheaton meeting is to try to shift the conversation back to core questions of the faith, and Trump as an individual will not be the focus of discussion, Birdsall said. Nonetheless, the president will be the “elephant in the room,” he said, because under his leadership the term “evangelical” has become negatively associated in the minds of many Americans with regard to topics such as racism and nationalism.
While the organizers said they are not trying to build a new coalition or launch a counter political agenda, the gathering shows how many key leaders of major institutions are wringing their hands over the state of evangelicalism.
“When you Google evangelicals, you get Trump,” Birdsall said. “When people say what does it mean to be an evangelical, people don’t say evangelism or the gospel. There’s a grotesque caricature of what it means to be an evangelical.”
Those gathered will not necessarily oppose Trump and some may even be friendly to some of his policies, said Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary, who is also helping to organize the event. But organizers said evangelicals need to return their focus to the term’s true definition: a person who believes in the authority of the Bible, salvation through Jesus’ work on the cross, personal conversion and the need for evangelism.
“We need to be wiser and better in the way we do ministry,” said Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. “Faith and God and sin and grace and idolatry are about fundamental human reality, and everything else is a way of dealing with those issues. It is a complete terrible reversal when [people believe] religion is about politics when it’s the other way around.”
“No matter what happens to American evangelicalism, it is here to stay. It’s international, global and politically diverse,” he said, pointing out that evangelicalism is quickly spreading in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
During Barack Obama’s presidency, Keller said, many evangelical leaders talked nervously of the future, but for different reasons than the ones that concern them now. Some were fearful that religious academic institutions could lose accreditation or federal funding because many do not hire openly gay staff members. And several colleges and universities, including Wheaton, sued the government over an Obamacare mandate to cover certain forms of contraception.
Under Obama, many of these leaders felt that their religious freedoms were under attack, feeling pressure primarily from the left. Now, Keller said, many of them feel under attack from those on the right if they support a more open immigration policy or foreign policy.
Bernard, a black pastor of a 40,000-member church in Brooklyn, said he fears that white evangelical supporters of Trump have put the reputation of American Christianity in danger.
“They continue to squander their moral authority in an attempt to sanitize the president,” said Bernard, who resigned from an advisory group of evangelicals last year after Trump blamed “both sides” for deadly violence in Charlottesville after a white supremacist march.
Many white evangelicals have been too focused on what they view as issues of sin and personal morality, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, without looking at the systemic injustices that most concern black evangelicals, such as economic inequality and racialized policing. The bill has now come due, he said.
“This presidency has exposed the spiritual, moral and racial condition of this nation,” he said. “The racial divides go deep in this country, and they’ve invaded the church.”
Several of those planning to attend the Wheaton gathering said they are tired of seeing leaders who regularly praise Trump — such as evangelist Franklin Graham, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. and Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress — representing all evangelicals.
“When a lot of folks think about evangelicals they think of people who are tied to the administration, but they don’t represent the evangelical community,” said World Relief vice president Jenny Yang, who will co-chair this group’s conversation along with Bishop Claude Alexander, a black pastor based in Charlotte. She later said she did not intend to imply that all of Trump’s advisers do not represent evangelicals.
Even though the gathering isn’t about politics, Yang said she expects discussion around major events of the past year, including the #MeToo movement about sexual assault and harassment, the white supremacy march in Charlottesville, and Trump’s refugee and immigration policy changes. About six leaders from outside the United States, she said, will tell the group how evangelicals are perceived globally.
Many of the evangelical leaders who will attend the meeting are caught in a generational divide. Their institutions tend to be fueled by an older generation of primarily white donors, many of whom are conservative and friendly to Trump’s policies. However, the future of their institutions is worrisome because many younger evangelicals and the growing numbers of evangelicals of color are distraught by the perception that the movement has become so tied to Trump.
Since World War II, American Protestants have tended to group themselves into three broad categories: fundamentalism on the right, mainline Protestantism on the left and evangelicalism somewhere in between.
But white evangelicals, who made up 26 percent of the electorate in the last election cycle, have been a powerful group to court politically since the 1980s. Exit polls showed that 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, and the president’s approval rating among those voters remains strong at 78 percent, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
Given such strong support, a case could be made that the greatest barrier to the gospel is evangelicals’ embrace of “Trumpism” as an ideology, Birdsall said.
“We realize millennials are disaffected and global evangelical leaders are disillusioned,” Birdsall said, pointing to his own daughter’s concern that people perceive evangelicals as racist and fearful.
Few nationally known white evangelical pastors have vocally opposed Trump, though some critics have emerged, including John Piper, a retired megachurch pastor in Minneapolis who has written of Trump’s “immoral behavior.”
As evangelicalism has grown without any formal hierarchy, it has formed tribes often driven by celebrity pastors, authors and artists. Evangelical leaders of institutions have been having conversations about how to address an evangelical identity crisis, said Rich Mouw, former president of Fuller Seminary, but most of these gatherings are small.
“There’s a real pastoral problem right now that in any given congregation that it’s a topic you can’t talk about,” Mouw said. “I don’t think it’s fear. I think it’s genuine pastoral perplexity about how we deal with this.”
Other invited leaders at next week’s gathering include Mark Labberton of Fuller Seminary, Ed Stetzer of Wheaton College, Jo Anne Lyon of the Wesleyan Church, Harold Smith of Christianity Today and Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition.
Published on Friday, April 13, 2018 @ 8:10 PM CDT
(PHOTO: REUTERS/WIN MCNAMEE)U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress inside the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2018.
Anyone who looks at Congress knows it is broken, hopefully not irretrievably so. A look at the last two debates currently swirling in Washington gives us a clue why it is broken. It is about more than party loyalty or tribalism on one side or the other. There is a tactic Congress applies on both sides that leaves us stuck with legislation undone that people on both sides say they favor. I speak of "saying they favor" because they do not favor it enough to change habits that prevent progress on matters on which both sides agree. So in a test I want to ask a question that I think exposes whether the politicians on both sides mean what they say.
The deadlock comes because of coupling. Coupling is the use of an alleged overarching principle to affirm that the issue under discussion is linked to another matter that also has to be solved in order to pass the desired piece of legislation in a consistent way. It is a form of political doublespeak that needs to disappear or, at least be used less comprehensively.
So we cannot solve the DACA problem because we need to figure out and work through the maze that is immigration reform first. The mantra is we do not want to be back here again in five years discussing the issue again (even though we have been at this more than a decade and have gotten nowhere on it and we are now at the point where real people are getting really hurt by our delay). We cannot discuss gun control legislation about automatic weapons or the mentally disturbed because that is tied in principle to gun ownership as a whole.
What is maddening about all of this is that when the American people are polled on either of these specific, smaller issues a large majority is for solving the specific problem and even agree in general on what should be done.
So I ask a series of simple questions as a concerned citizen. Why not decouple these discussions? Why not get DACA legislation passed and deal with the more complex fix later? Why not do something that prevents the wrong kind of weapon being in the wrong kind of hands (or at least puts up a barrier for it) so lives might be saved and people cannot regularly be killed in the dozens by a single gunman with a weapon that has little to do with hunting or self-protection. Why not decouple issues that can be easily separated by seeing the contentious difference in principle is not present in the current cases? Why not take the view that where we have agreement on exceptional situations is worth acting on and need not be held captive by a principle that can be sorted out later in much more complex, less clear, alternative circumstances?
Let me give an analogy. Anyone working with audio ear buds knows if you put them in a briefcase and do not make an effort wind them up to store them they will end up severely tangled in a moment. When they emerge tangled, you do not say let me untangle this all at once. You have to untangle it one strand at a time. That is what decoupling would mean. It would argue that let us do this one step at a time. Let us deal with what most of us agree on and then go back to work on our disagreements. One does not need a PhD in political science to go there. Just do it. Is that too hard to consider?
Here is a principle to consider. Accomplish something in a little step then go on to the next strand that needs attention. Then at least something might get done versus the nothing of the last decade or more. I say this to the shame of both political parties.
In the meantime three things might be accomplished by decoupling our DACA discussions from immigration and the use of weapons of mass destruction from gun control. First, we might reduce the number of catastrophic events we are experiencing, even in schools. Our children are rightly asking us as adults to do this. The adults need to insist our politicians do the same. Our mass funerals are a metaphor for how sick our society has become.
If we care, we will do something to try and stop it. Any pro-life view should be willing to go here. Second, we will take care of a generation of immigrants who, when they arrived as children, had no say in being here and people for whom this country has been their only conscious home. Even the pursuit of the rule of law seeks to have a decent sense of compassion and human understanding as we have the right to craft our own laws and change poor ones.
Third, we might just discover how we can work together one small step at a time.... Imagine that.
Dr. Darrell L. Bock is Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary as well as Senior Research Professor of NT Studies. He is an author or editor of over 40 books, including a New York Times Best Seller in non-fiction. He is host of the Seminary's Table podcasts (voice.dts.edu).
Published on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM CDT