A judge has ordered Republican Party gadfly Michael Ridgway not to communicate in any fashion with another longtime Republican Party member, Mark Towner, for the next three years.

Third District Judge Denise Lindberg also ordered Ridgway not to have any contact with Towner's wife, Carrie, or their children, and not to come any closer than 20 feet to the Towner family.

Lindberg emphasized she was not preventing Ridgway from attending events of any nature, including political gatherings, nor was she stopping him from engaging in constitutionally protected free speech.

Mark Towner's first injunction to keep Ridgway away from him was served on Ridgway May 11, just two days before both men were to attend the Republican State Convention.

Ridgway quickly challenged it and it was found that the original order was "too broad" because it would have kept Ridgway from attending the convention and "all Republican events," which would have interfered with his right to political expression.

The injunction was amended to that Ridgway could attend the convention, where he was seeking nomination for the U.S. Senate, but the other restrictions keeping Ridgway from the Towner family, their home and the University of Utah were kept in force. Lindberg removed the restriction involving the university campus on Wednesday.

Ridgway, who did not take the stand Wednesday, insisted before the hearing that the order was unnecessary and says Towner is simply trying to silence him because he speaks out about issues in the Republican Party.

"I would contend this is an anti-talking injunction, not an anti-stalking injunction, because I never stalked him," Ridgway said before court.

Mark and Carrie Towner took the stand, testifying about incidents in which they described Ridgway approaching in a physically menacing manner, making a verbal threat, sending harassing e-mails or making troubling phone calls to their home. They said they feared for their own physical safety and for that of their family.

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com