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Divorce records: No claim Ellison abused ex-wife

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Keith Ellison takes questions from reporters.
Keith Ellison takes questions from reporters while canvassing in north Minneapolis Friday Aug. 17.Unsealed divorce records do not include any allegations that U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison abused his former wife, but in one document he claims he was a "domestic abuse victim."
Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Updated: 2:41 p.m. | Posted: 12:23 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison's divorce records were unsealed by a court order Wednesday, detailing the ending of a troubled marriage and later disagreements over spousal support.

The records involve Ellison's 2012 divorce from ex-wife Kim Ellison, a Minneapolis School Board member. They lack any allegation that the Democratic attorney general candidate was abusive toward his then-wife. But in one filing, Rep. Ellison describes physical abuse toward him "throughout our marriage."

The divorce file was made public after the Star Tribune newspaper and conservative news site Alpha News went to court in September to unseal the records, arguing it was a matter of public interest, given his current campaign.

Ellison's campaign for attorney general has been dogged by allegations that he emotionally and, in one case, physically abused a girlfriend, Karen Monahan, during a relationship they struck up after his divorce. He has denied mistreating Monahan.

The claim from Ellison that he was harmed during his marriage is the most surprising revelation from the divorce file, which both he and Kim Ellison fought to keep private. In a signed affidavit in 2015, Ellison described being struck by Kim Ellison "too many times to mention" and talked about how the topic came up during marriage counseling.

"It was very humiliating to admit that I was a domestic abuse victim," Keith Ellison said in the court document.

Interview requests to both Ellisons Wednesday were not returned, but Keith Ellison issued a written statement expressing disappointment the records were released and called Alpha News "a far-right propaganda outlet with a history of racism and religious bigotry."

Kim Ellison
Kim Ellison, center, surrounded by her sons and a family friend, addresses the efforts to unseal the divorce records with her ex-husband Keith Ellison in Minneapolis on Tuesday.
Kyle Potter | AP

"I understand perhaps better than most that as a public official, my personal life falls under higher scrutiny than others. But to pry into the details of a sealed divorce file that the Court previously ordered closed, on the eve of an election, is shameful and outrageous," Ellison said.

The divorce documents also mention Monahan. Keith Ellison said Kim Ellison "harassed female friends and colleagues on the phone and through texts — specifically, Batala McFarlane, Hiam Nawas, Karen Monahan."

In his statement Wednesday, Ellison praised his former wife and said he regrets he did not appreciate the debilitating effects of her Multiple Sclerosis and depression during their marriage.

Kim Ellison also released a written statement repeating that Keith Ellison has never abused her and decrying the fact that the records were unsealed.

"My divorce file contains details of the most difficult time in my life, when I was struggling with my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis," she said. "I was scared, confused, worried, angry, and became depressed. It is a record of that time that I never thought a court would force me to share with the public."

Divorce files are typically public, but judges often agree to seal the records if both sides agree. The Ellison's sealed their file in 2012, months after the initial divorce.

Keith Ellison attempted to block the unsealing of the documents this week, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals denied his motion. On Tuesday, Kim Ellison made a plea to keep the records private, arguing there were personal medical information and details of a battle with depression.

The two were married from 1987 until 2012.

The divorce case was reopened this spring when Kim Ellison petitioned to change spousal payments. She said in a court filing that she needed more money, in part because she was dropped from her husband's health insurance and is battling a chronic health condition.

The initial divorce decree allowed Kim Ellison to stay on the family coverage as long as his plan allowed. Her motion to alter the divorce agreement is pending, with a hearing set for December.

Reporter Brian Bakst contributed to this report