Ronald Williams is heartbroken.
Williams, of Atlanta, was planning to spend Thanksgiving with his girlfriend, Ohio elementary schoolteacher Aisha Fraser. Instead, he is coming to grips with the fact that Fraser, 44, is dead, allegedly stabbed to death Saturday by her ex-husband, disgraced former Cuyahoga County Judge Lance Mason.
“She was a gift and, to me, she was just the love of my life,” Williams told WKYC in Cleveland in a telephone interview. “She was an extraordinary mother, daughter, friend, a light, energy, special spirit, strong, independent, super super smart.”
Williams said he became worried Saturday morning when he could not reach Fraser via text. He called her mother.
“I said, ‘Mama Fraser, is everything OK?’ and she said, ‘No it’s not, Ron, I’m sitting in front of a crime scene and I’ve been here for an hour and I don’t know what's going on,’” Williams told the news station. “I immediately started to freak out.”
Williams, who first met Fraser in college and began dating her in 2016 after she got divorced, told WKYC that he feared deep down that Mason, 51, would someday lash out violently at her. It had happened before.
Mason was removed from the bench in 2014 after viciously beating Fraser so badly that she required reconstructive surgery to repair a broken eye socket. After serving nine months of a two-year prison sentence, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson hired Mason last year as the city’s minority business development director.
The mayor announced Mason’s firing after Fraser’s slaying and the former judge’s arrest.
Jackson on Monday defended the hire and, according to WKYC, refused to apologize.
“No, I am not apologizing to the family,” Jackson told the news station. “I will tell the family I am greatly sorry for their loss.”
Jackson has a “second chance” policy in which many former prisoners are hired to work at Cleveland City Hall. The policy, and his hiring of Mason, has come under intense criticism.
Cleveland.com editorial cartoonist Jeff Darcy on Tuesday resurfaced a November 2017 cartoon decrying Jackson’s hiring of Mason, in which Mason’s picture is shown on a poster in the city human resources office. The poster proclaims him “Wife-Beating Employee of the Month,” and Harvey Weinstein and O.J. Simpson are seen applying for jobs.
In the updated version, the word “FIRED” is stamped across Mason’s face, and Simpson’s job application states it is for “Lance Mason’s old job.”
Darcy writes in the accompanying opinion piece that Jackson’s hiring of Mason, and his defense of the hiring, are “derelict” and “disgusting.”
“Mayor Frank Jackson has blood on his hands, and it's not from harvesting a Thanksgiving turkey,” Darcy writes.
Darcy is not the only person outside of Fraser’s circle of loved ones who has spoken out. Jim Swift, deputy online editor of The Weekly Standard, wrote on Twitter that the suspects who mugged him in high school got more prison time than Mason did.
“Which. Is. Insane,” Swift wrote. “Mason should have been in prison for years, not months.”
Others on social media talked of organizing protests in Fraser’s name.
The mayor admitted to WKYC that some of the felons hired by the city have served time for homicides. He would not say how many, the news station said.
Jackson also said that, while Mason was the most qualified candidate for the position out of a field of 16 candidates, nothing was done to determine if the former judge posed a potential threat to his co-workers.
“We did nothing to see if he was rehabilitated,” Jackson said.
Cleveland.com reported that at the time of the 2014 assault on Fraser, the then-estranged couple were returning from a family member’s funeral, their two young daughters in the back seat of the SUV.
Mason, then a common pleas judge, punched Fraser about 20 times, slammed her head repeatedly into the vehicle’s dashboard, bit her and choked her before forcing her out of the SUV and driving away with the girls. In a frantic 911 call, a battered Fraser begged police to find her children.
Mason was later arrested at his home, where investigators found smoke grenades, semi-automatic rifles, more than 2,500 rounds of ammunition, a bulletproof vest and a sword, according to Cleveland.com.
Mason was indicted on charges of kidnapping, domestic violence, felonious assault, attempted felonious assault and endangering the welfare of his children, Cuyahoga County court records show. He pleaded guilty to the domestic violence and attempted felonious assault charges, and the remainder of the charges were dropped.
He was sentenced in September 2015 to two years in prison but served less than half. Besides the prison time and removal from the bench, he was also prohibited by the Ohio State Bar Association from practicing law again.
Cleveland.com reported Tuesday that the license revocation wasn’t for a lack of trying to save his career. When Mason’s case went before the disciplinary board, a plethora of high-profile people -- including four sitting judges and U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge -- vouched for Mason’s character.
The news site obtained dozens of glowing letters of support written on his behalf in early 2017.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judges Hollie Gallagher and Brendan Sheehan wrote that, during their time working with Mason, he was “pleasant, fair and judicious,” Cleveland.com said. Judge John J. Russo, the pleas court’s administrative and presiding judge, wrote that only Fraser could forgive Mason for what he had done.
“What happened with Lance Mason was unfortunate and indefensible,” Russo wrote, according to Cleveland.com. “But I hope the Board of Professional Conduct considers the entirety of Lance Mason’s career and future potential in making their decision. He lost everything that day, but there is still time for the Lance Mason I once knew to put his skills to use in helping others.”
Fudge, who is vying to become Speaker of the House, wrote about the lawyer, prosecutor, state legislator and judge she had known for three decades prior to the attack on his wife.
“Lance accepts full responsibility for his actions and has assured me that something like this will never happen again,” Fudge wrote in 2017. “Lance Mason is a good man who made a very bad mistake. I can only hope that you see in Lance what I and others see.”
Fudge on Monday night told the news site that she was heartbroken over Fraser’s slaying. She said the person who committed the crime is not the Mason she knew.
“It was a horrific crime,” Fudge said. “I and everyone who knew Aisha are mourning her loss.”
Another Mason supporter who walked back his support since the homicide is civil rights attorney Subodh Chandra, who in 2017 wrote that Mason’s “chance at recidivism (was) nil,” Cleveland.com reported. Chandra also quoted William Shakespeare: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”
He wrote that Mason was too young to have all the good he’d done be forgotten.
Chandra said in a statement Monday that he wrote those words about a man he only thought he knew.
“When responding to the request of Judge Mason’s attorney, I talked about the distinguished public servant and well-respected judge I thought I knew -- believing that Aisha Fraser and their children deserved to have Mason support them financially,” Chandra said. “Now my heart is shattered for those children.”
The letters by Mason’s supporters, along with letters he wrote to his wife and daughters while in prison, failed to persuade the state bar of his remorse. Richard Dove, the director of the Board of Professional Conduct, wrote that Mason not only could not explain what made him attack Fraser that day, but that he could not assure board members it would not happen again.
“How can I speculate or anyone speculate what they would do in a circumstance they never thought they would be in?” the records quote him as saying during his hearing.
“It is important to note that (Mason’s) attack of his wife on August 2, 2014, was not a mere loss of temper resulting in a single strike or even two,” Dove wrote, according to Cleveland.com. “It was a crazed attack involving multiple strikes, multiple bites, and pursuit.
“When those who knew (Mason) would not have believed him capable of the acts he committed on August 2, 2014, and the evidence presented does not sufficiently explain the acts of that date, the reasonable conclusion is that, in the right circumstances, the events of that date could very well happen again.”
The board recommended that Mason be barred from practicing law for life.
That recommendation did not stop Jackson from hiring Mason last year.
Williams told the news station Mason should have still been in prison after beating Fraser four years ago and that he should not have had access to his children. He also said he wants those who supported Mason and allowed him early release to be held accountable.
“They are all collectively responsible for Aisha’s death and the kids witnessing for the second time what a brutal evil monster that other parent was,” Williams said.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.