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Police Stuck on Keith Ellison Abuse Case Until Accuser Files Report

Independent lawyer hired by Dems concludes claim is ‘unsubstantiated’

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., has denied allegations that he emotionally or physically abused his ex-girlfriend. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., has denied allegations that he emotionally or physically abused his ex-girlfriend. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Local Minnesota law enforcement cannot initiate an investigation into a claim of domestic abuse levied against Rep. Keith Ellison until his accuser and former girlfriend, Karen Monahan, files a report, officials made clear Tuesday.

The Minnesota Democratic party is handing over to authorities the final report for its own internal investigation into Monahan’s allegation that Ellison physically and emotionally abused her while they were dating in 2016, chairman party Ken Martin announced Monday.

But a local prosecutor who has been asked to review the report, which was produced by outside attorney Susan Ellingstad, can’t probe possible charges until police initiate an investigation.

“If such an investigation occurs and is submitted to you for review to determine whether or not criminal charges should be filed, I will agree to review the matter on a conflict of interest basis for you,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom wrote in a letter to a Minneapolis City attorney who referred the Democrats’ report to him because Ellison’s son is on the Minneapolis city council.

The Associated Press first reported Backstrom’s letter.

“However, I will not review any investigation completed by the law firm retained by the Minnesota DFL Party or any other private investigator without the completion of an investigation by a law enforcement agency.”

Local police’s hands are tied, too.

They can’t launch any initial investigation until someone — the state Democratic party, Monahan herself, or any other interested party — files a formal complaint.

Monahan’s lawyer, Andrew Parker, told the AP it was never her plan to have authorities prosecute Ellison, who is the Democratic candidate for Minnesota attorney general next month.

“That was not her intention,” Parker said. “Her intention was her healing as an abuse victim … not to get Keith Ellison thrown into jail.”

Ellingstad, the outside attorney hired by the Minnesota Democrats to probe Monahan’s allegation, found the claim “unsubstantiated” after Monahan did not hand over a video recording she claims to have of the alleged incident.

Monahan’s son Austin Monahan originally posted the allegation to Facebook on Aug. 11 claiming Ellison had tried to drag his mother off his bed by her legs and feet, yelling at her to “get the f — out of his house.” He claimed there was video of the incident.

Karen Monahan has said she also has the video. But she has not produced any such recording, saying that the contents of the video are traumatizing. She also told CNN last month that she had misplaced the video.

“Ms. Monahan claims to possess evidence that could conclusively corroborate her allegation as well as potentially answer all of the questions surrounding it, if it occurred, but Ms. Monahan has chosen to withhold that evidence,” Ellingstad wrote in her report for the Democratic party, multiple outlets reported.

“That the accusing party claims to have but refuses to provide key, dispositive evidence that the accused has flatly denied, causes me to conclude that the allegation is unsubstantiated,” Ellingstad wrote.

Ellison has denied Monahan’s story of their relationship since her son first levied the accusation, though he has stopped short of going on the attack against her.

Ellison said in a statement Monday that addressing the allegation against him “has been especially challenging” considering his general response to the #MeToo movement.

“I believe women who come forward must be heard, and to have their allegations fully investigated. This is why I have complied with this investigation fully, and will do so with any other inquiries,” Ellison said.

“I thank the Minnesota [Democratic party] for taking this issue seriously and requesting this investigation,” Ellison said. ICYMI: The #MeToo Impact on 2018

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