A judge said he doesn't understand why a Salt Lake Republican doesn't just divorce his party.

Mike Ridgway has butted heads with GOP leadership for years, culminating in a court hearing Wednesday to face criminal trespassing charges for an incident in March 2007, when party leaders called police to remove him from party headquarters property. Ridgway was jailed for five days for violating a protective order, stalking and criminal trespass.

Salt Lake City Justice Court Judge L.G. Cutler dismissed the charges Wednesday, saying the city didn't prove Ridgway knowingly trespassed on a party executive committee meeting.

But the judge was quick to point out the dysfunctional marriage between the Republican Ridgway and his party, saying the party was like a spouse wanting a divorce and Ridgway the annoying spouse refusing to move out.

"If these guys want to get a divorce, then I encourage you to get divorced, because we are wasting a lot of time asking hyper-intensive questions," Cutler said at the tail end of Wednesday's hearing.

GOP bosses call Ridgway a nuisance, and they have passed resolutions barring him from party meetings.

During the hearing, several GOP leaders complained of threats, rude behavior and bad manners exhibited by Ridgway. County Party Chairman James Evans even said he refuses to talk to Ridgway, a county Republican.

"I just make it a practice not to communicate with him," Evans said.

Party leadership has tried to officially halt all interaction with Ridgway in the past.

The state party tried to ban him from political meetings and the convention, but instead it allowed him to go only with hired security specifically assigned to tail Ridgway, said Jeff Hartley, the former executive director of the state Republican Party. And the county party passed a resolution in 2007 barring Ridgway from holding any leadership positions in the party.

Ridgway's attorney, Liz Hunt, said the party is out to get him since he has multiple Republican political enemies.

"The government's witnesses are using everything they have to shut him down politically," Hunt said.

Although the judge said Ridgway did not break the criminal trespass law, he did not condone Ridgway's actions.

"I am not saying, Mr. Ridgway, that somehow you have conducted yourself appropriately," Cutler said. "I am not saying that somehow you have a constitutional right, a legal right to act the way you do.

"I would encourage the parties, specifically you, Mr. Ridgway, to decide the reason why you conduct your affairs in the way you conduct your affairs. It may not be a crime — but it's not an effective way to present your position on the things you believe important."


E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com