CLEVELAND — Aisha Fraser was in dire financial straits when she asked a judge to release her former husband early from prison after his brutal domestic violence attack, the judge said Tuesday.
Just over two years later, Lance Mason stands accused of stabbing Fraser to death.
In a tearful phone call with Channel 3 News, Judge Patricia Cosgrove said Fraser “had no opposition” to Mason being released from prison.
“I’m heartbroken,” the judge said. "I am absolutely devastated. She was a wonderful, wonderful person."
Cosgrove was out of the country when Mason was accused of killing his former wife. The incident happened in a home that Fraser owned, but rented to Mason's sister. She said Fraser was aware that Mason also lived in the house.
“It was as OK as it could be,” Cosgrove said. “She wanted her daughters to have some relationship with their father.”
In 2016, Cosgrove recalled Fraser and her friends expressing concern over Fraser’s financial struggles, trying to raise her two daughters with no financial assistance from the imprisoned Mason.
Mason, who also served as a state representative and state senator, could access his public pension, and also obtain employment, therefore, easing Fraser’s financial burden, Cosgrove said. As it was, Mason landed a job inside Cleveland City Hall as director of minority business development.
Cosgrove, who paused several times to fight back emotion as she spoke, said the July 2016 hearing included endorsements for Mason’s release by one or two Cuyahoga County judges.
Mason, 51, was a common pleas judge when he brutally assaulted Aisha Fraser inside their car – and in full view of their children – during an attack in 2014. Fraser suffered severe injuries that required reconstructive surgery. She later filed for divorce.
Cosgrove, a retired Summit County judge, was assigned the case because of Mason’s ties to Cuyahoga County judges.
Mason later pleaded guilty to attempted felonious assault and domestic violence and received a 2-year prison sentence in September 2015. His law license was later indefinitely suspended.
After his release, Cosgrove said Fraser, 45, tried to maintain a cordial relationship with Mason in the hopes he could have a relationship with their daughters.
Fraser, a school teacher, and Mason had no violent confrontations after his release and often saw each other while Mason took his daughters for unsupervised visits, Cosgrove said.
Mason was also a model probationer, according to Lorain County officials who oversaw his release.
Zachary Burkons, a friend of Fraser's agreed with Cosgrove's assessment. He said Fraser feared Mason, but understood that he was going to be released regardless. He said she knew Mason lived at the house Fraser rented to Mason's sister and tried to avoid being alone with him.
"She didn't want to be around him anymore than she had to and only for the sake of the children," Burkons said.