National News

Former Ohio Judge Who Beat His Wife Is Arrested in Her Stabbing Death

Posted November 19, 2018 3:56 p.m. EST

A former Ohio judge who served nine months in prison for brutally beating his wife in 2014 in front of their children, punching her 20 times and fracturing a bone in her face, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of fatally stabbing her at her suburban Cleveland home, authorities said.

Police encountered the former judge, Lance Mason, Saturday morning as he was driving an SUV away from her house in Shaker Heights and slammed into an officer’s patrol car, authorities said. It was not clear whether the officer was responding to a call when Mason struck the car.

Mason, 51, a former high-ranking Democratic state lawmaker and a top county prosecutor, had not been formally charged as of Monday morning in the death of his wife, Aisha Fraser Mason.

While Mason was taken into custody, the Shaker Heights Police Department has not said why he has not been charged and did not return calls seeking comment Monday. Mason was taken to the hospital Saturday, but his condition was not known and it was not clear whether he remained there Monday.

Aisha Mason was a longtime sixth-grade history and math teacher at Woodbury Elementary School in Shaker Heights, whose campus was within walking distance of her home.

“Aisha was a devoted mother and a longtime committed teacher to Woodbury students,” Stephen M. Wilkins, the interim superintendent of Shaker Heights City School District, wrote to parents and employees Saturday. “She touched so many of our children’s lives and will be deeply missed.”

A vigil for Mason was scheduled for Monday evening outside Woodbury Elementary.

Lance Mason was a judge on the Common Pleas Court in Cuyahoga County in August 2014 when Aisha Mason called 911 on a Saturday afternoon to report that he had beaten her. With their children in the back seat, Lance Mason slammed on the brakes in their SUV on a Shaker Heights road and started to pummel Aisha Mason in the passenger seat, according to the police report and court records. He slammed her head against the dashboard, and choked and bit her before he kicked her out of the car.

“My husband just beat me and threw me out of the car, and he has my two daughters in the car,” Aisha Mason told a 911 operator, gasping for breath as she recounted what happened. “I’m afraid he’s going to hurt my daughters.”

The family had just left a funeral for Lance Mason’s aunt.

Police found Lance Mason inside the family’s home and their daughters unharmed in the SUV, which was outside the house, according to court records. Officers arrested Mason and confiscated smoke grenades, rifles, a sword, a bulletproof vest and thousands of rounds of ammunition from the house.

It was a shocking downfall for Mason, who had risen to top public positions in Cleveland and Ohio. In the late 1990s, he handled felony cases as an assistant prosecutor in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland. He was later appointed to fill a vacancy in the Ohio House of Representatives and remained there until he won a state Senate race in 2006. In 2008, the state’s Democratic governor, Ted Strickland, appointed him to become a judge in Cuyahoga County.

After his arrest, authorities came under criticism for the favorable treatment Mason appeared to have received. While he was suspended from his job, state rules allowed him to still collect his $121,000 salary while the case remained open.

Because of a series of court delays, Mason received about a year’s worth of pay from the time he was arrested until he pleaded guilty to felony assault in August 2015. He faced up to three years in prison but was sentenced to two. He resigned from his judgeship and was later disbarred.

“He was a good judge and a friend, but he owes society this time,” Timothy J. McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said when he was sentenced. “I am confident he will leave prison rehabilitated and will again be an asset to our community.”

Mason served less than half of his prison sentence. After nine months in an Ohio prison, a state judge granted his request for early release in June 2016 that included a list of conditions. One requirement: He was prohibited from having any contact with Aisha Mason, who underwent reconstructive facial surgery to repair damage that he had caused, until at least June 2021. She filed for divorce two days after the beating but the case was still pending in court.

In a letter to his wife shortly before his release, Lance Mason said he had learned from his mistakes and apologized. “I can’t begin to understand the harm I have done to you, our girls and your family,” he wrote.

Cleveland’s longtime mayor, Frank Jackson, hired Mason in 2017 as the city’s minority business development administrator. The city defended that decision, saying that Mason was the best candidate among a pool of 16 applicants.

“This was no political favor with Lance Mason,” Jackson told WOIO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Cleveland, last November. Jackson fired him Saturday afternoon.