Questions postpone vote on new judge
New allegations from anti-polygamy groups that Eric Ludlow avoided prosecuting child bride cases during his tenure as Washington County attorney kept the state Senate from voting on his judicial appointment as planned Wednesday.

The Senate postponed the vote until April 30, when Ludlow will be present to answer questions raised since last week's hearing before the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee. He was out of town at a previously planned conference and unable to attend Wednesday's hearing.

Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, committee chairman, said concerns have arisen regarding one particular answer Ludlow provided senators last week. When asked if a child polygamy case had ever come to his office, Ludlow said no.

Buttars now believes that is not the case, and thinks Ludlow may have misinterpreted the question.

"We want to feel very, very confident our questions are heard, (and) answered correctly," Buttars said. "And there were some remaining questions since that hearing and since he wasn't here we postponed presenting his name."

Troy Bowles, of the organization Help the Child Brides, sent Buttars an e-mail outlining his concerns about Ludlow yesterday.

In it, Bowles wrote: "We believe that there is a conflict of interest between Ludlow and the performance of his duty when polygamous offenders are involved."

Pennie Petersen, who has four sisters married to well-known polygamists, said she also called a staff member of the committee yesterday with her concerns.

Buttars said, in his mind, there is clearly a problem with polygamy in southern Utah.

"I personally believe there's an enormous mess down there that needs to be cleaned up," he said. "I was satisfied that his office was not avoiding that mess . . . but there's a couple lingering questions and until they're answered I chose not to present his name."

Buttars noted the case of Rodney Holm, a Hildale, Utah, police officer charged with unlawful sex with a minor and bigamy. Ludlow referred that case to the Utah Attorney General's Office, saying he had a conflict of interest and could not prosecute it.

Petersen, who at one point had two sisters married to Holm, criticized Ludlow's handling of the case.

"That case went on his desk, and it sat for a couple of months, and then he gave it back to the attorney general and said it was too close to home," Petersen said. "So for him to say that nothing's come across his desk is definitely not true."

Petersen also has three other sisters married to Arizona polygamist Orson William Black, another case she and Bowles cite in their criticism against Ludlow.

They claim Ludlow and Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith allowed Black, who is wanted by Arizona police on five felony charges involving sexual activity with minors, to escape capture last month.

Petersen said she and one of Black's wives went to his home to take the woman's children. Black allegedly refused to leave the residence, or to send the children out, which resulted in a standoff situation with a county SWAT team.

Eventually, Petersen said she was told by a sheriff's deputy that Ludlow and Smith had made a deal to allow Black to turn himself in the following morning. He never did, and Petersen said she hasn't seen or heard from Black or her sisters since.

"Why would he sit there and make a deal in the middle of the night with some attorney?" Petersen said. "I've never even heard of making frickin' deals like that. You go and get the bad guy."

Smith was out of the office Wednesday, and no one from his office was available to comment on the allegations.

In his e-mail, Bowles asked that Ludlow's confirmation be postponed until he can present senators with more evidence regarding the situation.

"This is a very serious matter," Bowles wrote. "At last week's hearing, it seemed that Mr. Ludlow was not being forthright with regard to the crimes we are concerned about. He seemed to be saying that he has never been informed about these crimes, but clearly he has been involved for some time now."
Originally published April 17, 2003