A candidate for superintendent of Idaho state schools is charged with encouraging an act of child abuse, according to a temporary protective order granted this week by a Washington state court.
The court issued an order against Branden Durst and his current wife at the request of Durst’s ex-wife, after a Washington state doctor reported an injured child to Child Protective Services.
The alleged abuse happened in December in Boise. Washington state officials passed information about the child’s injury to the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, which said it referred the matter to the Ada County District Attorney’s Office. “We have received reports from the sheriff’s office,” prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Emily Lowe told Idaho Reports, “and they are currently being reviewed.” As of Friday afternoon, neither Durst nor his wife had been charged.
“There’s nothing to say,” Durst told Idaho Reports when reached for comment Friday. “There are false allegations. We look forward to the case being closed.
According to a copy of the petition filed in Washington, Durst’s ex-wife, Jaime Charles, said Durst’s current wife, Cheri Durst, hit a 14-year-old child with a wooden spoon. In the document, Charles said that Branden Durst “not only watched and did nothing to stop him, but he actively encouraged his wife to beat (the child).”
Durst, a former lawmaker and current candidate for Idaho’s superintendent of public instruction in the May Republican primary, is scheduled to appear in Washington state court on March 2.
Durst also faces an investigation in Ada County.
Idaho Reports filed a request for copies of the police report filed with the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, but the request was denied Feb. 15 due to an ongoing law enforcement investigation.
Idaho Reports obtained copies of the Thurston County Superior Court petition. In the document, the ex-wife says she believes that if the court does not grant the protective order, the children will suffer the consequences and Durst may prevent the children from calling for help.
If Branden Durst were elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, he would be responsible for overseeing the education of more than 323,000 children.
The alleged incident
According to the petition, when the ex-wife picked up two children from the Durst’s Boise home on December 26, the eldest complained of pain in his right leg.
The two children reported that on Christmas Eve the boy ‘was restrained by his stepmother for refusing to do the laundry, he was able to run away but was brought back to the laundry room by Cheri where she again climbed on top of him, held him down and beat him with a wooden spoon breaking his leg,” according to the petition.
According to the documents, the children said Branden Durst observed and encouraged the actions.
Durst’s ex-wife noticed two large bruises on the boy’s leg on Dec. 27 and took him to the doctor on Dec. 30 because he reported “his leg was still bothering him,” according to the petition. It was this doctor who notified child protective services.
In January, the Ada County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation at the request of Child Protective Services and contacted the child’s mother, according to the petition.
The court’s finding
The Thurston County Court ruled that an emergency existed and that a temporary protective order should be issued “without notice” to Cheri and Branden Durst to avoid “irreparable harm”.
Thanks to the order, Cheri and Branden Durst are prevented from approaching his ex-wife and children. Children can initiate phone calls, video calls and texts with him if they wish, but Durst cannot initiate this contact. Cheri Durst may have no contact, according to the protective order.
As of Feb. 18, no criminal charges have been filed against Branden or Cheri Durst in connection with the alleged incident.
Ruth Brown is a producer with “Idaho Reports” on Idaho Public Television.
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