Friday, March 16, 2007

GOP dissident out of jail for now

Update: Ridgway Charged

Case# 00740750Charge: Criminal Trespass (Upgraded to Class B Misdemeanor)Arraignment: 4-26-07

Republican Party dissident Michael Ridgway is out of jail after spending about 120 hours in the Salt Lake County lockup facility. Ridgway said he was released Tuesday night and no charges had been filed against him as of late Wednesday. However, the Salt Lake City prosecutor's office could file charges later, and Ridgway said he would have to post a $7,000 bond to avoid going back to jail. Ridgway was arrested by police who were called to county and state party headquarters last Thursday. He was arrested for investigation of criminal trespass, stalking and violating a no-contact court order, jail records show, although Ridgway denies he violated any of those laws. Asked if he would try to attend another county GOP executive committee meeting in the future, Ridgway said: "Why shouldn't I go?" However, he added that he wouldn't likely try again without a police escort to prove to GOP leaders that he was abiding by a previous no-contact order obtained by Republican Party leaders Mark and Carrie Towner.

Ridgway has been arguing with county and state party leaders for years and was stripped of his party offices two years ago. The no-contact court order, which Ridgway is appealing to the Utah Supreme Court, says that Ridgway can't come within 20 feet of the Towners. Ridgway complains that party leaders are purposely holding meetings in a small conference room at party headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City and if he goes into the room he is closer than 20 feet from the Towners. He said he called police last Thursday asking that an officer assist him to attend the meeting but no officer showed up. And after Ridgway walked into the party headquarters, GOP county chairman James Evans told him to leave. Ridgway said he did walk out, but police then arrived and arrested him. Ridgway said at no time did any party leader tell him that he was banned from GOP headquarters — and so he was not violating any trespass law — adding that officials are breaking their own open-process rules by threatening him with trespass arrest should he attend a meeting. But Evans says Ridgway will not be allowed to "disrupt" any executive committee meetings — which Evans says he can close to non-members any time he likes — and police will be called should Ridgway try to attend one in the future.

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