Marcia Fudge once wrote letter of support for man now accused of murder

Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases Ethics Committee reviewing Rep. Sanford Bishop's campaign spending The Hill's Morning Report - Trump's public standing sags after Floyd protests MORE, the Ohio Democrat mulling a challenge to Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSupreme Court expands religious rights with trio of rulings Congress must act now to fix a Social Security COVID-19 glitch and expand, not cut, benefits Democrats see victory in Trump culture war MORE (D-Calif.) for Speaker, once wrote a letter in support of a friend and former judge after he severely beat his wife in 2014.

That former Cuyahoga County judge, Lance Mason, has now been arrested and accused of fatally stabbing his ex-wife.

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Fudge’s defense of a domestic violence abuser has thrown a wrench into her potential bid for Speaker, especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement and following a historic midterm election that saw dozens of Democratic women swept into office.

In a statement Tuesday, Fudge condemned last weekend's brutal murder of Aisha Fraser and explained that her earlier support of Mason was based on what she knew of him over a three-decade friendship. He had a distinguished professional career as a prosecutor, state lawmaker and judge.

“My heart breaks for Aisha Fraser. I pray for Aisha’s family, especially her children, as they attempt to deal with this tragedy,” Fudge said. “My support of Lance in 2015 was based on the person I knew for almost 30 years. The person who committed these crimes is not the Lance Mason familiar to me. They were horrific crimes, and I condemn them. I and everyone who knew Aisha are mourning her loss.”

Mason was arrested in 2014 after he punched his then-wife 20 times and slammed her head into a car dashboard, requiring her to have reconstructive surgery, according to news reports.

A year later, just before Mason was about to be sentenced for assault and domestic violence, Fudge and other highly respected politicians and judges sent letters to the court attesting to his character while condemning the violence. He was sentenced to two years in jail but served only nine months.

“Lance accepts full responsibility for his actions and has assured me that something like this will never happen again,” Fudge wrote to Judge Patricia Cosgrove in 2015. “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.”

It’s unclear how this latest episode might affect Fudge’s leadership aspirations. Anti-Pelosi insurgents — led by Reps. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanDemocrats see victory in Trump culture war House Democrat calls for 'real adult discussion' on lawmaker pay The Hill's Coronavirus Report: San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Artistic Director Tim Seelig says choirs are dangerous; Pence says, 'We have saved lives' MORE (D-Ohio) and Seth MoultonSeth MoultonHouse panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday Democrats expect Russian bounties to be addressed in defense bill MORE (D-Mass.) — have been trying to persuade Fudge, a former Ohio mayor and previous head of the Congressional Black Caucus, to challenge Pelosi for the Speaker’s gavel.

Fudge hasn’t ruled it out, telling reporters she will decide after Thanksgiving whether to challenge the minority leader in the party's internal election for Speaker. A House floor vote for Speaker is scheduled for early January.