CLEVELAND (CN) – Disgraced former Cuyahoga County Judge Lance Mason pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the murder of his estranged ex-wife, three years after he went to prison for beating her in front of their two children.
Appearing in court via video teleconference, Mason, 51, also waived his right to a speedy trial.
Stark County Judge John Haas was assigned by the Ohio Supreme Court to preside over the case after Mason’s former Cuyahoga County colleagues recused themselves. Haas set a tentative trial date of Sept. 2, 2019, and Mason’s bond was set at $5 million.
A grand jury indicted Mason for aggravated murder, murder, felonious assault, violating a protection order and grand theft on Nov. 29, less than two weeks after Mason was jailed for crashing an SUV into a police cruiser while fleeing the scene of 45-year-old Aisha Fraser’s killing.
According to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, Mason confronted his former wife on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 17, when Fraser arrived at a house in Cleveland suburb Shaker Heights with their daughters, ages 8 and 11.
Prosecutors claim Mason stabbed Fraser repeatedly, stole her Audi SUV, and sped out of the driveway, ramming into a police cruiser that Shaker Heights Officer Adam Flynt had parked in the center of the road to establish a crime scene perimeter.
Mason was charged with felonious assault in connection with the crash and held in jail without bond while prosecutors prepared evidence on Fraser’s killing to present to a grand jury.
“Aisha Fraser was viciously and cruelly taken from her children by Lance Mason’s cowardly and selfish act,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said in a statement. “He stole a loving mother from her children and took an exceptional teacher, neighbor and role model from the Shaker Heights community. He will be held accountable for is barbaric act.”
Mason had previously attacked Fraser in 2014, repeatedly slamming her head against the dashboard of their SUV in front of their children while the family was driving home from the funeral of Mason’s aunt, according to local news reports.
When Fraser got out of the vehicle, Mason chased her, struck her again and bit her. The attack left Fraser with a broken orbital bone and Mason later pleaded guilty to domestic violence and attempted felonious assault.
Mason was released from prison in 2016 after serving nine months of a two-year sentence, under the conditions that he attend anger management counseling and refrain from contact with Fraser.
The Ohio Supreme Court indefinitely suspended Mason from practicing law after his 2015 guilty plea and he resigned from his position as a judge with the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, a position he had held since 2008 when he was appointed by former Governor Ted Strickland to fill a vacancy on the court.
Mason had not retained his own legal counsel in his murder case as of Wednesday. The court assigned Cleveland attorneys Kevin Spellacy and Thomas Shaughnessy to represent him at the arraignment.
He faces life in prison if convicted.