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Utah's foremost gun advocate and his ex-wife had a contentious divorce wrought with conflict, emotional distress and pain.
At times, Clark Aposhian may have been annoying and intimidating but, a judge ruled last week, he wasn't dangerous.
Third District Judge Andrew Stone denied a protective order request from Aposhian's ex-wife, Natalie Meyer, last Tuesday and ruled the woman has no reason to fear the gun lobbyist.
It's a long-awaited victory for Aposhian, who has been embroiled in several legal disputes stemming from a Memorial Day incident in which he was accused of driving a 2.5-ton military vehicle onto his ex-wife's driveway and threatening to run over her new husband and his car.
Aposhian still faces misdemeanor domestic violence charges in Holladay Justice Court, but his attorneys hope Stone's ruling, which states there was no abuse or criminal trespassing on the Meyers' property, will help them in fighting that case.
"The court's recent ruling clearly vindicates Mr. Aposhian," defense attorney Morgan Philpot said in a written statement provided to The Tribune. "Mr. Aposhian now looks forward to resuming the process of clearing up the residue of false allegations and returning to focus on his family and relationship with his daughter."
In October, Meyer testified that she had suffered years of threats, abuse and fear at the hands of Aposhian since the couple's marriage dissolved. She described the day she served him with divorce papers as terrifying and spoke about the years of anxiety she felt over what her ex-husband might do next.
"I've been emotionally abused for years. And after you've been abused for so long, I didn't know what to expect physically," she said on the stand. "He's scary when he gets angry. .... Just him being there is threatening."
No physical violence • The judge dismissed this fear of physical abuse, noting her interactions with Aposhian had never escalated to physical violence in the past, and there was little evidence to show they were likely to in the future two legal requirements of granting a protective order under Utah law.
"The Court accepts Ms. Meyer's testimony that she has found her interactions with Mr. Aposhian since her separation upsetting, intimidating and annoying," Stone wrote in his ruling. "That does not lead to a conclusion that they will escalate to violence."
Stone pointed out that Meyer never mentioned any ongoing emotional or verbal abuse in her divorce filings.
The judge also wrote that despite having a mutual restraining order that instructed both Aposhian and Meyer to communicate strictly through email, Meyer elected to waive those protections "for some time," interacted with Aposhian in person and maintained a joint-custody arrangement with their daughter.
Stone's ruling is the second resolution of the three cases against Aposhian that stem from the same Memorial Day confrontation.
In August, a stalking injunction was issued against Aposhian ordering that he come no closer than 150 feet from his ex-wife's new husband, Ronald Meyer, lest he run the risk of criminal charges and jail time.
It was imposed by 3rd District Judge Terry Christiansen, who ruled that Aposhian committed two acts of stalking against the man once while Ronald Meyer was leaving Aposhian's ex-wife's home in 2010 and the second on Memorial Day.
Accusation • On that day, Aposhian is accused of driving a 2.5-ton military vehicle onto his ex-wife's driveway and threatening to run over Ronald Meyer and his car.
Aposhian has insisted that he used the driveway only to make a U-turn in the cul-de-sac where the family lives and later received a hostile phone call from Meyer accusing him of damaging the property.
Aposhian returned later that day to the Ronald Meyer home.
Philpot has argued it was to survey the alleged damage, not to cause problems.
But Meyer said Aposhian had threatened to "bury" and "end" him, which he interpreted as a death threat.
Officers who arrested Aposhian testified that he was uncooperative, boisterous and loud. Aposhian was also armed at the time of his arrest with a gun and a knife.
It was this testimony that, ultimately, swayed the judge to issue a stalking injunction in August, but it did not sway Stone in his decision to deny the protective order.
"One confrontation between [Natalie Meyer's] ex-spouse and current spouse, involving figurative chest-thumping over the phone, does not lead the Court to conclude that an imminent threat or substantial likelihood of physical violence to Ms. Meyer exists," the judge wrote. "The Court finds that backing the truck into the Meyers' driveway and honking would not cause a reasonable person significant emotional distress."
This, Philpot said, has been vindicating for Aposhian, whose reputation has suffered as a result of the criminal charges and publicity the cases have received.
"This case was never about the lurid claims and false allegations; it was about an ex-wife being dissatisfied with her divorce decree and fabricating stories with her new husband to try and gain unfair advantage," Philpot said. "Mr. Aposhian is thankful for the diligence and serious consideration given by the court, and relieved that even in our times, with Twitter, Facebook and endless propensity for online slander, the court process has ensured that, in this case, truth prevailed."
Stone's ruling not only allows Aposhian to maintain legal contact with his ex-wife but brings him one step closer to accessing his arsenal of more than 300 firearms, which have been confiscated for the duration of these legal proceedings.
Whether he's able to regain access to the guns, which Aposhian uses to teach firearm classes, may depend on the outcome of the criminal case in Holladay.
On Wednesday, Aposhian appeared before Judge Augustus Chin, who scheduled another review hearing in the case for mid-February and lifted any court restrictions on Aposhian's ability to travel out of state.
Aposhian, 49, faces misdemeanor counts of criminal trespass, criminal mischief, domestic violence in the presence of a child and threat of violence.
The Meyers' attorney, Mitch Olsen, did not respond to requests for comment about the judge's ruling in this case.