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Idaho superintendent candidate found in contempt of Washington court

Justice Scales and books and wooden gavel
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A judge in Washington ruled a candidate for Idaho superintendent of public instruction was in contempt of court based on violations of a parenting agreement.

A King County judge in Washington found Branden Durst, a candidate for Idaho superintendent of public instruction in the Republican primary, in contempt of court on four occasions related to the custody agreement with his ex-wife, who lives in Yelm, Washington.

Durst declined to provide a comment to the Idaho Capital Sun about the contempt order.

Durst is challenging incumbent Superintendent Sherri Ybarra for the office of superintendent, which oversees Idaho public school education for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Former Idaho State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield is also a candidate in the May 17 Republican primary.

Branden Durst is a candidate for Idaho’s superintendent of public instruction. (Courtesy of Idaho Reports)

The contempt allegations originate from events over Christmas, when Durst, according to the court documents, violated terms of the parenting plan. One of those violations included not informing the children’s mother, Jaime Charles, that the children were exposed to COVID-19 while visiting him, according to the documents.

According to the court order, the contempt findings can be corrected if Durst remains in strict compliance with the parenting plan for the next six months and if he pays the $4,203 in lawyer fees and other related expenses. The judge did not order any jail time or other penalties.

Durst was also named in a child abuse allegation against his wife, Cheri Durst, in early March, according to court documents. A Thurston County Superior Court judge in Washington issued a temporary protection order through March 16 that included Branden Durst because he allegedly watched his wife strike the child with a wooden spoon and encouraged it. Branden Durst denied that accusation, and he won’t be criminally charged in the incident, according to Ada County prosecutors.

Cheri Durst, who is a candidate for Ada County coroner in the Republican primary, pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor injury to child charge and is scheduled to appear for a pre-trial conference in Ada County court on Tuesday.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.