US Senate candidate loses bid to seal child custody case

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FILE – In this Sept. 22, 2020 file photo, Sean Parnell walks through people gathered at a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at the Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon Township, Pa. Parnell, a decorated veteran and regular guest on Fox News programs who became a favorite of former President Donald Trump, is expected to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat Tuesday May 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A judge on Thursday refused to seal records and proceedings in the ongoing custody battle involving Sean Parnell, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, or grant Parnell’s request to bar his wife from talking about past restraining orders she had sought against him.

Parnell had made the requests after a rival for the Republican nomination, Jeff Bartos, and an associated super PAC attacked Parnell over the matter, calling him “unelectable.”

Bartos and his allies aired the attacks in September, days after former President Donald Trump endorsed Parnell.

The judge sitting in the Butler County divorce and custody case, James Arner, however, told Parnell and his wife that they cannot reveal any information about evaluations or assessments — such as mental health — on the children or each other in the case. Such evaluations on children are normally sealed.

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Parnell’s campaign has disputed the notion that the restraining orders sought by Laurie Parnell in the contentious divorce case — granted prior to a hearing involving both parties — were evidence of any wrongdoing. Neither lasted more than a matter of days.

Parnell’s wife agreed to withdraw her first request. A judge decided against making the other permanent after a hearing involving Parnell.

Both were later ordered expunged, and the applications for the orders — the document that details the allegations — are no longer part of the publicly available filings in their divorce case.

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