Montana Legislative Leader’s Ex-fiancée Drops Restraining Order Request

Republican Senate President Jason Ellsworth says he has ‘not been abusive’

By Arren Kimbel-Sannit and Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press

A temporary restraining order against Republican Senate President Jason Ellsworth has been vacated after his former fiancée withdrew her request for the protective measure on Tuesday, according to court filings. 

“Respondent has had no contact with the petitioner,” an agreement between Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, and his former partner, Lindsey Murolo, reads. “Petitioner does not require judicial intervention or entry of a permanent order for her protection.” 

The order of protection for Lewis and Clark County resident Murolo had been issued by a justice of the peace in early May. That temporary measure, pending a July court hearing, came after an attestation from Murolo alleging that Ellsworth physically assaulted her and threatened her with a loaded gun last October. Her request, first reported by Montana Free Press Monday, also said Ellsworth had continued to send her unwanted communication after she asked him to leave her residence in the wake of that alleged incident. No charges related to the claims have been filed.

In a Tuesday statement released by his attorney, Joan K. Mell of Ravalli County, Ellsworth denied that he had been abusive toward Murolo and that he posed a threat to his former fiancée or her daughter, a minor plaintiff in the petition.

“My ex-fiance [sic] unwisely and without representation filed claims against me that are not true,” Ellsworth’s statement said. “She prepared her petition in May on her own when she was angry that I still wanted her to return my property after I ended our relationship in March. She has voluntarily dismissed her claims and has conceded that she does not require any orders for her protection, which is correct. I have not been abusive and do not wish her or her daughter any harm. We were there for each other for six years. Sadly that came to an end earlier this year. We are both moving on respectfully.” 

A copy of the agreement between the two parties, provided by Ellsworth’s attorney and verified with the justice court, is dated July 11, one day after the publication of MTFP’s story reporting the temporary protective order and Murolo’s allegations. Court records show that Murolo did not retain her attorney, William Hooks with the Montana Legal Services Association, until July 9. 

Hooks did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication of this story Tuesday afternoon.

A hearing about whether the temporary protective order should be made permanent was originally scheduled for May 22, roughly three weeks after Justice of the Peace Mark Piskolich issued the original decision. That court date was rescheduled at the request of Mell, the attorney Ellsworth retained three business days before the scheduled hearing. 

Murolo filed a handwritten note with the court expressing frustration about the rescheduled hearing date. The note is dated May 22, the same day the hearing was originally scheduled to take place. 

“I would like to continue my court date hearing to July 17, 2023 at 9:30 am. I am a provider at a doctor’s office and have a full patient schedule to maintain. When I filed this order three weeks ago I had to reschedule several patients and [lose] my hourly and commission pay,” Murolo wrote, adding that she had not been notified of the changed court date. 

“I was not served and did not receive any notice in the mail. I feel this is beyond unfair due to Jason Ellsworth’s status being a state senator,” she wrote. 

The Tuesday agreement, signed by Hooks on Murolo’s behalf, says the petition is dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning the complainant can bring a later action on the same grounds. 

Earlier Tuesday, the Montana Democratic Party called for Ellsworth’s resignation. Neither of Ellsworth’s fellow Republican leaders in the Senate, Majority Leader Steve Fitzpatrick and President Pro Tempore Kenneth Bogner, returned requests for comment. 

Ellsworth has served in the state Senate since 2019, and was elected Senate president ahead of the 2023 legislative session. In 2021, he pleaded guilty to a charge of obstructing a peace officer resulting from a traffic stop on a highway east of Helena. Also on Tuesday, Lee newspapers’ State News Bureau published a dashcam video of the traffic stop, which it obtained following a yearlong lawsuit. The video, which confirms previous reporting based on court records, shows Ellsworth ignoring a state trooper’s direction to remain in his vehicle and invoking the state attorney general in an effort to be released. 

This story originally appeared in the Montana Free Press, which can be found online at montanafreepress.org.

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