The court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case where one longtime Republican activist wants a court-ordered injunction barring him from any contact with another longtime Republican activist thrown out.
The injunction was issued last year against Mike Ridgway, who at the time was running for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination against Orrin Hatch. It ordered Ridgway to stay away from Republican activist Mark Towner and his family, and even avoid e-mail contact.
Attorney Troy Booher argued that confrontations between Ridgway and Towner occurred 18 months apart, hardly a pattern of harassment. He called the confrontations political disagreements rather that threatening actions, noting the last incident stemmed from Towner's umbrage at Ridgway's passing out fliers opposing Towner's candidacy for state Senate.
But Peter Stirba, Towner's attorney, said there were many times Ridgway's actions made the Towners feel threatened or harassed and they had reason to believe Ridgway could become violent.
It's been a tough year for Ridgway. He has been evicted or asked to leave several Republican events and was arrested and jailed for allegedly trespassing at one Republican meeting earlier this year.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Party dissident takes aim at stalking injunction
Deseret Morning News
During oral arguments held Tuesday, an attorney for Ridgway argued his client had every right to attend political functions and voice disagreement with political rival Mark Towner, despite a civil stalking injunction imposed by a district court judge.
Attorney Troy Booher said Ridgway never went to the couple's home or anything of the like, but rather had several heated confrontations with them during Republican functions.
"They're heated political debates, that's the whole point," Booher said, adding Ridgway never made physical threats against the couple. He argued the district judge unjustly granted the stalking injunction by ordering Ridgway to stay 20 feet away from the Towners and limit his speech about them.
Peter Stirba, attorney for the Towners, said the district judge was right to grant the injunction because the couple thought Ridgway could be violent.
The couple claim there were two incidents, 18 months apart, in which Ridgway confronted them for voting in Republican functions in a way that Ridgway did not approve. In between, there were moments of "amicable" meetings but also numerous e-mails and text messages criticizing Mark Towner and calling him a "liar. The turning point, however, came in April 2006 during the Salt Lake County Republican Convention where Ridgway passed out a letter critical of Mark Towner as he gave a speech in support of his run for a state senate seat. Afterward, another party member told Ridgway to apologize for passing out the letter, indicating he had broken party rules.
Ridgway apologized to Towner but Towner claims it was in a "derogatory" way. Towner said "cheap shot, Mike" and Ridgway started arguing while Towner started to leave the room. Carrie Towner said Ridgway started arguing with her and moving toward her in a threatening manner. In court testimony, Carrie Towner said she tried to protect her daughter. "I put my arms around her and put my hand out to Mike and said, 'Don't talk to him Leslie, he gets violent,' and I turned around and tried to get her out of the way."
Mark Towner resigned from his position in the Republican Party one month later. Ridgway was booted from his party offices. In March 2007, Ridgway was arrested and spent 120 hours in jail after he attempted to attend a county GOP executive committee meeting and police were called.
Booher argued that two confrontations 18 months apart cannot be considered continuous as stated in the statute, especially since there were "amicable" meetings between the two men during that time.
Stirba said the Towners had heard from about 20 other people who had encountered Ridgway's temper.
Justice Matthew Durrant said he noted that the Towners did not make any claims of bodily injury or emotional distress in their court application. Stirba said the couple did later testify that they felt they were in danger.
Because the district court did not file any findings of fact in the case, the justices will have to review transcripts of hearings before coming to a decision. A written ruling is expected in the coming months.
Posted by Mark E. Towner at 4:51 PM
CNN Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Call it a battle for the hearts and minds of Christian conservative voters.
Pat Robertson, right, endorses Rudy Giuliani Wednesday in Giuliani's quest to be the GOP presidential nominee.
Pat Robertson, the television evangelist and Christian Coalition founder, endorsed Republican White House hopeful Rudy Giuliani for president when the two men appeared together at the National Press Club in Washington on Wednesday.
Robertson said he decided to endorse Giuliani because he was "a proven leader who is not afraid of what lies ahead and who will cast a hopeful vision for all Americans."
"In all of the crises which confront our nation and the world, we need a leader with a bold vision who is not afraid to tackle the challenges ahead," Robertson said. Watch Robertson call Giuliani ready to lead »Meanwhile, former White House hopeful Sen.
Posted by Mark E. Towner at 12:01 PM