Man Arrested at Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Monday Connected to Rick Bell's Campaign

click to enlarge County Sheriff's Deputies put Lashawn Terry in handcuffs outside the BOE, (11/2/20).
County Sheriff's Deputies put Lashawn Terry in handcuffs outside the BOE, (11/2/20).

Deputies with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department arrested a 48-year-old man outside the Board of Elections late Monday morning after an altercation among competing campaign workers, the county confirmed.

Just before noon, a deputy approached the man, who had been fingered by another member of the public, and engaged in a "consensual encounter." When the man's information was plugged into the state's law enforcement data system, it was revealed he had an outstanding warrant due to a prior theft charge. A county spokesman said the man was put in handcuffs, placed under arrest and transported to the Cuyahoga County Jail.

The man was later identified as Highland Hills resident Lashawn Terry. He had been carrying a blue "Richard Bell" sign at the BOE Monday. In a cell phone video viewed by Scene, which captured a portion of the altercation, Terry was accused of having a gun. He can be seen in the video telling candidate Rick Bell that he was there to "protect" former prosecutor and current pastor Aaron Phillips. Terry tells Bell that Phillips had hired him on that basis. 

Phillips appears in the video as well. He has spearheaded a number of opposition tactics against Bell's opponent, the incumbent Wanda Jones, and can be seen yelling at Jones supporter Colin Jackson. This was the altercation which preceded Terry's arrest. 

In an emailed response to Scene's request for comment, Rick Bell said that no one on his campaign staff had been arrested.

Wanda Jones, in a phone conversation, said that the incident is not an aberration from, but an escalation of, tactics that she has experienced from Bell and his campaign team.

She took exception recently, she said, to Aaron Phillips circulating an image of her five-year-old daughter alongside Cuyahoga County GOP Chairwoman Lisa Stickan, who was wearing Donald Trump paraphernalia at the time. Jones said the image is being used to paint Jones as a Trump supporter.

Jones has not endorsed Trump — "I haven't endorsed Biden, either" she said. "I'm a county judicial candidate." — but said that regardless, candidates' children should be off-limits as material for negative campaign literature.

Jones is a former Democrat. She maintains that she switched parties not for ideological reasons, but in order to challenge Daniel Gaul for a judicial seat in 2018, a race she lost. She was then appointed to a vacancy on the county common pleas court by former Gov. John Kasich in Dec. 2018 and is campaigning to keep the seat. She is currently one of only four Black judges out of 34 total in the court's general division. The Plain Dealer has endorsed Jones, but said that voters would be lucky with either Jones or Bell. 

"I stand by my decision [to switch parties]," she told Scene. "I think It brings to light the political machine that's going on in Cuyahoga County, and the lack of diversity on the bench. The Democratic party should be aware that they'll be challenged if they don't increase their diversity. They expected me to pretend to be a Democrat, but I didn't back down. That's why they're mad." 

Jones said that tensions have only increased between the two camps during early voting. After Bell, Phillips and Bell's campaign team had been erroneously calling Jones a Trump supporter and physically intimidating Jones' supporters at the BOE, the Jones camp responded by printing out and distributing a March 2020 article in The Intercept about how Bell swept a wrongful conviction under the rug, she said.

Jones said that Bell's supporters are defending their actions as "just politics" — in the video, local political consultant Jerry Primm says as much to Colin Jackson —-  but she thinks it's gone too far. She said she lives on the same street in Solon as Bell and that she's been surprised and disappointed by the "underhanded" way her neighbor has been running his campaign.

"It's not politics," she said. "It's just bad."

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About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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