U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison said in a 2015 divorce proceeding that he had to leave his 25-year marriage with Kim Ellison, a member of the Minneapolis Board of Education, because of her repeated physical abuse, according to an affidavit in the couple's newly unsealed divorce file. The records contain no allegations from Kim Ellison that her ex-husband abused her.
A Hennepin County Family Court referee ordered the file unsealed after legal efforts by the Star Tribune and Alpha News, a right-leaning news site, that followed allegations in August by Ellison's ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan that he physically and emotionally abused her. Ellison, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, denies the claim.
The Ellisons, who divorced in 2012, opposed the unsealing of their divorce file, citing privacy concerns. Divorce records are typically public, but judges will often agree to seal them if both parties to the case agree and no one else objects.
In a statement on Wednesday, Keith Ellison described his marriage as "storybook" until the onset of Kim Ellison's multiple sclerosis and "major depression." At a news conference on Tuesday to explain why she wanted to keep the divorce records private, Kim Ellison also talked about suffering depression following her medical diagnosis.
"I attribute the difficulties in our marriage to the disease and my failure to understand it," Keith Ellison said in his statement. "I was not nearly sensitive enough to the symptoms of her medical condition at the time, and for that I am deeply sorry. Kim and I have rebuilt a strong friendship as parents to our four wonderful children. I am proud of the person Kim is. We are family, and I stand by her."
Kim Ellison has served on the Minneapolis school board since 2012. The Ellisons unsuccessfully petitioned the state Court of Appeals on Monday to delay the file's unsealing until they could redact "confidential information" from the documents it contains.
In a February 2015 affidavit opposing motions from Kim Ellison for him to pay more in spousal maintenance, Keith Ellison reported that his ex-wife "has hit me too many times to mention." He said he reported the abuse during a 2009 counseling session during which Kim Ellison told a therapist that she hit him and not their children "because he can take it," according to the affidavit. Ellison said in the affidavit that he had photographs of injuries she inflicted, and said she once wielded a knife during an altercation at his Washington, D.C., apartment. He said staff members noticed markings left by the alleged abuse.
"It was very humiliating to admit that I was a domestic abuse victim," Ellison wrote in his affidavit, one of dozens of filings unsealed on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Kim Ellison said in a statement that the file's unsealing "should be the end of the allegations against Keith" and that she was "ashamed that a judge has allowed an alt-right website that is openly working to defeat Keith" and the Star Tribune to "exploit and stigmatize my illness for their own ends."
"My divorce file contains details of the most difficult time in my life, when I was struggling with my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis," Kim Ellison 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."
Keith Ellison's Republican opponent, Doug Wardlow, has repeatedly criticized Ellison for the abuse claims made by Monahan and another woman, Amy Alexander, who accused Ellison of assault in 2005. Ellison obtained a restraining order against Alexander that year after alleging that she was harassing him.
On Wednesday, both Ellison and the DFL Party criticized efforts to unseal the file, with Ellison calling it "shameful and outrageous."
DFL senior adviser Charlene Briner, in a statement Wednesday, said the Ellisons had "been subjected to unforgivable violations of privacy fueled by the most extreme elements of the right wing."
"To exploit the worst, most painful time in a family's life in pursuit of political gain is unconscionable," Briner said. "Moving forward, we hope the Ellison family is given the privacy they deserve and the compassion we all would hope for if facing similar circumstances."
An investigative report commissioned by the DFL Party concluded earlier this month that it could not substantiate Monahan's abuse allegation, pointing to her refusal to share a video she said she recorded of a 2016 incident in which Ellison allegedly tried to drag her off a bed. Citing Kim Ellison's denial that Keith Ellison ever abused her, the report's author Susan Ellingstad, an attorney affiliated with a law firm that represents the DFL Party, wrote that she could not establish a pattern of abuse by Ellison.
The investigative report is now in the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department, which has said it would refer the report to another agency to avoid a conflict of interest in an apparent reference to Ellison's son, Jeremiah Ellison, serving on the Minneapolis City Council.