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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Former U.S. Rep Enid Greene has won sole parental rights for the child she had with ex-husband Joe Waldholtz, whom she blamed for the campaign finance scandal that drove her from Congress.
Third District Juvenile Court Judge Andrew Valdez on Tuesday terminated Waldholtz's parental rights to 10-year-old Elizabeth.
Valdez said Waldholtz had made only token efforts to communicate with the girl, has had no physical contact with her for nine years and is unfit to provide for her physical, mental or emotional well-being.
Waldholtz attended the hearing by phone, and Valdez told him, "You were a phone friend, nothing more."
The verdict means Waldholtz no longer has any legal rights to his daughter, but it does not preclude contact between the two.
Waldholtz is serving his second prison sentence, a three- to 15-year term in Pennsylvania that began in May, for stealing $30,000 from his deceased father's estate and other accounts.
After the hearing, Greene said she would not object to Elizabeth visiting her father, "if that's what she wants."
He said the verdict "means I can protect my daughter. As horrible as it is to no longer say she has a father, under the circumstances, it's the best thing for her."
Greene said she sought to terminate Waldholtz's rights because she does not want him listed as Elizabeth's guardian if she dies.
"I'm concerned about her physical custody and welfare, but also her finances," Greene said. "Joe has a well-established pattern of stealing from his family."
Waldholtz said he would like a relationship with his daughter, but agreed to relinquish custody and any claims to her finances.
Valdez said Waldholtz poses a legitimate threat to Elizabeth and called him "a predator" of his own family.
Waldholtz was Greene's husband and campaign treasurer when she was elected to Congress in 1994 with the help of nearly $2 million in illegal campaign contributions. The money was funneled into the campaign from the personal fortune of Greene's father.
She claimed ignorance of any wrongdoing, though she and her father paid federal fines. She did not seek re-election.
Waldholtz served 21 months of a 37-month federal prison term on fraud charges in the case.
In 2003, he was convicted of theft in Pennsylvania for writing and cashing dozens of checks drawn on the accounts of his stepmother and late father's estate.
Waldholtz said Greene moved without giving him a forwarding address after his conviction and did not return his calls.
"She's my daughter. Not being able to communicate with her has been one of the most difficult things for me. I thought my calls were being ignored," he said.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)