John Ludwig, a flying Maserati, and a dead man

john-ludwigJohn Ludwig is screwed.

Or John Ludwig is not nearly as screwed as he could be.

It all depends on what happens when two of the best known legal eagles, Bob Ariail and Billy Wilkins, come beak-to-beak.

If you’re from these parts, the story has been impossible to ignore. For those outside the DMA, here’s some quick background.

John Ludwig is well off. He founded SDI Networks and has done very well for himself. Not yet 40 years old, he’s a mover, shaker, and, if his record is any indication, a bit of a troublemaker. A couple of weeks ago, Ludwig apparently left a Greenville County back road in his Maserati, drove hundreds of feet through a field, hit a Dukes of Hazard-style dirt ramp, went airborne across an entire backyard, and flew through William Bardsley’s living room. Bardsley, just sitting down to watch a ball game, did not survive when the car hit him. Witnesses reported Ludwig getting out of the car, throwing his suit jacket over his shoulder, and walking around without a scratch.

The community is in a lather over this one. More than a 1,600 people have joined the “Indict John Ludwig” Facebook page. People are protesting outside 13th Circuit Solicitor Bob Ariail’s office. The forums on the local news sites are blowing up and causing site moderators no small amount of heartburn.

In a normal world, people would be content to let the legal process do its thing, but with Ludwig, nobody is counting on that working out so well. People are screaming that Ludwig is getting preferential treatment because he’s rich and knows people in high places. Normally we could write this off to class warfare and some morbid schadenfreude. In this case, however, there is some cause for justification.

It’s not just that Ludwig hasn’t been charged yet. It’s that it appears this case was screwed from the start.

maseratiAny regular Joe in a Nissan Sentra who works at SDI Networks would’ve been strapped to a breathalyzer and very well could’ve been arrested the night of the wreck. A guy in a Maserati who owns SDI Networks? No blood alcohol test. A ride home from the South Carolina Highway Patrol. No charges as yet. Hell, I’m sure he could have had a dash cam from BlackBoxMyCar showing everything he did and he still wouldn’t be charged!


Ludwig isn’t messing around. Already facing charges on an unrelated case, Ludwig has hired Billy Wilkins, a onetime federal judge and now best known private attorney in a 100 mile radius. This only helps to stoke the public outcry. “The best defense money can buy!” or something to that effect.

Right now, Ariail is taking the full force of the screaming. Whether you like the guy or hate him (full disclosure: Ariail and I have always gotten along well), he’s in a really tough spot here. The public, common sense, and decency dictate that Ludwig has to be charged with something. The problem is that the HP’s decision to give Ludwig a walk on the breathalyzer cuts off one of Ariail’s legs. The big charges Ariail could level here won’t have the smoking gun evidence he’ll need.

Ariail has taken cases with weak evidence to court before (see Harris, Cory), but it’s not his style to do so on a regular basis. He likes things tidy and he doesn’t like to lose. He will have to make a decision. Does he fire all his barrels at Ludwig to make the public happy? Does he file easy-to-convict charges that will make the public lose its damned mind? Or will he deal with Wilkins, Ludwig’s high-dollar, high-profile attorney?

Prediction: a jury never sees this case. It’s too risky for Ludwig to go in front of his “peers” and the case is too poorly-investigated for Ariail to file the appropriate charges. Ludwig will get hit with a pretty damned serious civil suit and probably never do any time. The public will scream for a while and then we’ll never hear about the case again.

You know…justice.

Photo credits: and

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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15 Responses

  1. G-Rob says:

    I agree on two points :

    A) The wrongful death civil suit will be the major problem for this guy. He’ll lose his shirt.

    B) He won’t spend a day in jail.

  2. Evelplayer says:

    My question is: if he wasn’t drinking or zoned out on drugs, why didn’t he stop the car during the 100+ yard joy ride through the field? Why was he going so fast that he couldn’t stop? Did he set out to kill this poor man in his own house? Was he trying to commit suicide? If there were no drugs and no alcohol involved then shouldn’t he have been able to do something, like maybe apply the brakes!

  3. Da Goddess says:

    I’m all for going with the wrongful death civil suit. It’s the only way any sort of justice will be done. The highway patrol fucked this one up big time and, were I a resident, I’d be calling for some heads to roll there.

  4. Jay says:

    I wish people actually understood this stuff. Guys – Ludwig won’t even pay for a civil defense, his insurance company will. His policy will pay and MAYBE he’ll have to pay some of whatever assets he hasn’t shielded away by then. He stepped down from SDI so I have one further prediction – a banktrupcy filing in the next year or so.

    File suit now on the civil end….

    OH – and if eveyone is so concerned that he balked on any blood/breath tests, he was at a wedding reception, why not interview those folks, find out who served alcohol that night. Servers are sober and typically remember people they’ve seen multiple times as long as you don’t let that trail get cold.

  5. Bent10 says:

    The bartender that says “Oh yeah, I remember John. He was drunk” gets to be first inline for a lawsuit for allowing the drunk guy to drive. Only question is will the victim’s family sue, or will Ludwig sue the bartender that let him drive – maybe both.

  6. george says:

    if i’m not mistaken, South Carolina law dictates that if someone is involved in a wreck after consuming ANY alocoholic beverages then the people and/or the place who served said person legally can also be held accountable for that person’s actions…why not hold the Country Club and the servers accountable for letting him get intoxicated and drive in the first place?

  7. A. Winthorpe says:

    Ludwig, you fat bastard. I always figured you would wind up in prison for fraud or tax evasion; but murder ? you always enjoyed overkill(npi) but this is ridiculous. oh well, better you than me. Oh, i spent the night with your ex on tuesday and borrowed some of your slippers. hope thats cool.

  8. Dave Hilmyster says:

    John Ludwig is a selfish bastard who deserves what he is getting, rumor is he paid off the SCHP officer so he wouldn’t have to take the breathalizer test. I hope he rots in hell the selfish bastard.

  9. James T. Kirk says:

    There seems to be some coverup involved as to who was with Ludwig that night. Posts on the Greenville News’ website that have named this person have been promptly deleted. This seems relavant, and inquiring minds want to know. Anybody care to name names here?

  10. Josh says:

    Let me just say that I have seen John drive, I’ve seen him drive with his children, and I can say alcohol or not he is a terrible driver!!

  11. Josh says:

    I feel terrible for his children! They are 2 very nice children and they don’t deserve any of this from their father

  12. Zold says:

    He paid a large sum to the family of the victim and got off easy. Reminds me of this:

    “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll”
    — by Bob Dylan (based on a true story)

    William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll
    With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger
    At a Baltimore hotel society gath’rin’
    And the cops were called in and his weapon took from him
    As they rode him in custody down to the station
    And booked William Zanzinger for first-degree murder
    But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
    Take the rag away from your face
    Now ain’t the time for your tears.

    William Zanzinger who at twenty-four years
    Owns a tobacco farm of six hundred acres
    With rich wealthy parents who provide and protect him
    And high office relations in the politics of Maryland
    Reacted to his deed with a shrug of his shoulders
    And swear words and sneering and his tongue it was snarling
    In a matter of minutes on bail was out walking
    But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
    Take the rag away from your face
    Now ain’t the time for your tears.

    Hattie Carroll was a maid in the kitchen
    She was fifty-one years old and gave birth to ten children
    Who carried the dishes and took out the garbage
    And never sat once at the head of the table
    And didn’t even talk to the people at the table
    Who just cleaned up all the food from the table
    And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level
    Got killed by a blow, lay slain by a cane
    That sailed through the air and came down through the room
    Doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle
    And she never done nothing to William Zanzinger
    And you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
    Take the rag away from your face
    Now ain’t the time for your tears.

    In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel
    To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level
    And that the strings in the books ain’t pulled and persuaded
    And that even the nobles get properly handled
    Once that the cops have chased after and caught ’em
    And that ladder of law has no top and no bottom
    Stared at the person who killed for no reason
    Who just happened to be feelin’ that way witout warnin’
    And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished
    And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance
    William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence
    Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fearsv
    Bury the rag deep in your face
    For now’s the time for your tears.

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