Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson (Zivojinovich), his son Justin, and daughter-in-law Michelle are seeking unspecified monetary damages in a federal suit against the Naples, Florida Ritz-Carlton, its security director and three sheriff’s deputies for injuries, pain and suffering, mental anguish and the costs of his defence in the criminal case that resulted from a festive New Year’s Eve soire gone badly awry (details here).
Though Lifeson was initially booked on six charges, including four felonies that could have landed him in prison up to 30 years, the D.A. eventually reduced the charges to two counts of assault on a law enforcement official. A deal was reached with prosecutors in April whereby the charges against the guitarist and his son were reduced to misdemeanors and each was given a suspended sentence, received a year of probation and was ordered to pay court costs and restitution. If they successfully complete their probation, there will be no formal conviction on their records.
“In like a lion, out like a lamb. These words appeared in a Naples Daily News editorial on April 27, describing the outcome of the criminal charges against my family and myself. After fifteen months of living in fear and anxiety, and the enormous physical and emotional toll that it took from all of us, the prosecution’s case began to crumble as the truth emerged and witnesses came forward to expose the behavior of these Collier County Sheriff’s Deputies and certain employees of the Ritz Carlton, a resort hotel reputed to be one of the finest in the world.
“As that part of this ordeal came to a close, I thought to myself that more than anything, I wanted to get my life back on track. I thought I could accept the fact that I was punched in the face so hard it ripped the cartilage from my nose, fracturing the bone and shattering my septum. I thought I could accept the incredibly painful nasal surgery and weeks of recovery, and the discomfort I feel every night when I go to sleep. I thought I could accept the fact that I was Tasered six times, twice while lying face down in a growing pool of my own blood, and so severely that it burned bloody holes in my back. I thought I could accept watching my son get electrocuted numerous times as well, and erase the memory of his screams of pain and terror.
“I thought I could accept being imprisoned for two days without a phone call for over fourteen hours. I thought I could accept the innuendo of those who don’t know me and believed I was just some spoiled, drunken rock star. I thought I could accept watching my daughter-in-law, through a crack in the prison door, as tears streamed down her face because she was unlawfully jailed and separated from her two months old son. I thought I could accept the deep depression my wife, the woman I love without measure and who shares my soul, struggled through for months, fearing for her husband and son … what was I thinking?
“Out like a lamb. All of that for nothing. All because of the bitterness of a few Ritz Carlton hotel employees on the most festive night of the year and their incredibly discourteous, arrogant and aggressive behavior of which I had never experienced in thirty years of travel. All because of three confrontational, intimidating, enraged deputies who wouldn’t even consider dialogue, who were so quick to reach for their Tasers and handcuffs when no crime was committed. All because of a prosecutors’ office blind to the reality of instances of excessive force by police and the horrendous destruction of innocent lives forever changed…what were they thinking?
“In like a lion. The legal action we are embarking on now will hopefully bring attention to the fact that people cannot and should not be treated this way. I was fortunate to have the resources and will to fight to the end, but there are many who don’t and they will forever suffer from the forced compromise of an unfair plea bargain or the threat of sentencing guidelines that demand imprisonment, that hang over one’s head like the sword of Damocles. If some good is to come of this, then let it be that the actions of a tiny minority of aggressive, Taser wielding police officers don’t tarnish the reputation of the vast majority of officers who proudly serve their communities with honor and sacrifice. I sincerely believe they deserve our utmost respect, but respect is something that must be earned and not demanded with a closed fist or an electrifying weapon … that’s what I’m thinking.”