Alex Zivojinovich, aka Lifeson, guitarist with Rush, is scheduled to stand trial May 16 on two third-degree felony assault charges stemming from an altercation with Collier County deputies at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Florida, on New Year’s Eve 2004.
“I think it’s (the case) going to trial,” said Lifeson’s defense attorney Jerry Berry to the Naples Daily News as he left the courthouse yesterday. The judge scheduled an April 27 hearing on the case, where a plea bargain could be accepted. Berry and prosecutor Rich Montecalvo refused to say whether or not they were conducting plea discussions.
The Naples Daily News has compiled an account of what happened on that fateful night:
- Justin Zivojinovich, Alex’s son, got onto the Ritz house band’s stage. A band led by William Noll was performing alternating music sets with a band next to it led by Freddy Cole, the 71-year-old younger brother of the late, legendary Nat King Cole.
Noll, who was leading the house band, said in his sworn statement that the evening was going well until Justin and friends got onto the stage as his band was taking a break.
He said that after leaving the ballroom for a short time, he returned to hear a “litany of screaming and shouting” in the microphone, and someone had overtaken his band’s congas.
Noll said that he saw three people on the stage, including Justin Zivojinovich, who was dressed in a white suit and was shouting into the microphone.
“Another man was in the middle of the stage dancing suggestively, sort of a semi-strip dance. The third was playing the congas, and my heart sank when I saw this irrational takeover of the stage,” Noll said.
Justin Zivojinovich, Alex’s son, became “verbally abusive” after he was asked to leave the stage, according to witness statements.
Security called the Sheriff’s Office.
Alex Zivojinovich intervened as deputies were escorting his son off the property, and tried to push his son in an opposite direction.
The situation then escalated.
As a deputy was using a stun gun to subdue Justin Zivojinovich, Alex Zivojinovich charged up a stairwell to go to the aid of his son. A deputy acknowledged that he then punched Alex Zivojinovich in the face to stop him from assaulting another officer.
Alex Zivojinovich is accused of pushing a female deputy down the stairwell onto a concrete floor, causing her head injuries that required medical treatment.
Justin Zivojinovich, who is facing a third-degree felony assault charge, gave a much different account of the fracas in a telephone interview with the Naples Daily News the day after the incident.
He said his father had his nose broken by deputies, and as he was spitting out the blood from the injuries, deputies assaulted him again. He also said his father didn’t push the female deputy down the stairs as stated in arrest reports. Instead, Justin Zivojinovich said, the deputy tumbled down the stairs as she pushed him down the stairwell. He said he was just trying to have a joyous New Year’s Eve when he got onto the stage.
“I was singing Happy New Year’s, that’s all I was doing, singing to the whole crowd. That’s all I said, ‘Happy New Year,'” he said. “Everyone was enjoying themselves.”
Those ARE rather drastically different accounts, aren’t they? I would guess that a plea may still be in order – I’m sure the defense is trying to get the felonies reduced to misdemeanors and no additional jail time. The guy has hardly been a hellion in the past.
I took at look at Rush’s The Spirit Of Radio: Greatest Hits 1974-1987 here.