Alex Lifeson of Rush Arrested in New Year's Eve Fracas

By John Henderson, Naples Daily News, January 2, 2004

The lead guitarist for a renowned rock band faces criminal charges after a scuffle with Collier County sheriff's deputies at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, on New Year's Eve.

Alex Zivojinovich, a founding member of Rush, known on stage as Alex Lifeson, was arrested after what deputies describe as a drunken, violent outbreak at the posh hotel.

Zivojinovich, 50, faces six charges that include aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting an officer with violence, and disorderly intoxication. Also arrested in the brouhaha were his 33-year-old son Justin Zivojinovich and his wife, Michelle, 30.

Deputies say they had to use a stun gun on Alex Zivojinovich, 8787 Bay Colony Drive, Apt. 804 in Naples, and his son during the fracas. And in their reports they accuse Alex Zivojinovich of pushing a female deputy down a hotel stairwell during the struggle, and of spitting blood on a deputy's face.

But his son Justin, who was visiting his father on vacation from Canada, gave a very different account of what happened during an interview Thursday night.

He said his father, who was still in the Collier County jail as of late Thursday, 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 did not 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 the trouble began after he got up on the stage where the house band was performing at the hotel.

"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,'" Justin Zivojinovich said. "Everyone was enjoying themselves. That's when someone apparently started yelling for one of the security guards. There was no violence on our part.

"I was ready to leave. I was asked to leave, and I said, 'OK, I'm going to go. I'll grab my wife and be out of there.' They didn't want that. They didn't want me to leave on a high note. They felt they would lose. They decided to aggravate me. They stunned me, as well as my father, with a stun gun."

Justin Zivojinovich said they have hired Naples defense lawyer Jerry Berry to represent them. Rush has scheduled a global 30th anniversary tour in 2004, and Justin said he did not know whether this arrest might affect those plans.

"If we don't get off of these charges, we're going to start seeking lawsuits against a lot of people," Justin Zivojinovich said.

Arrest reports paint a picture of an intoxicated, unruly, and violent father and son who refused to comply with deputies' orders. The reports said that trouble began after Justin Zivojinovich got up on the band's stage after being warned not to.

The reports state that the 33-year-old Zivojinovich became verbally abusive after being asked to leave the stage. "When approached by hotel Security Supervisor Frank Barner, he said "(Expletive) off, I'm going to sing a song for my wife," according to the arrest report.

The reports said that is when his 50-year-old father came to the defense of his son and became verbally abusive with Barner.

Barner then called sheriff's deputies, and stated that he wanted both men removed from the property and issued trespass warnings.

Collier Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Knott's said in his report that he told Justin Zivojinovich he would be escorting him to the property line and issuing him a trespass warning prohibiting him from returning to Ritz-Carlton property.

"Justin stated that was fine. When Justin and I walked back into the ballroom to retrieve his property, he threw his hat and started screaming obscenities," Knott's report states. "A second male identified as Justin's father, Alex Zivojinovich, approached us and stated that his son wasn't going anywhere."

Knott alleges that he told Alex Zivojinovich that if he didn't move away from them, that he would be arrested for obstruction of justice. "Alex stated, "Take me to jail, I don't care, it's (expletive) New Year's Eve,'" Knott's report states.

Knott contends that Alex Zivojinovich then put his hands on his son's chest and began pushing him in the opposite direction of the way the deputy was escorting him.

"Justin began to struggle and resist. I placed Justin in an arm bar and began escorting him away with the assistance of Cpl. Amy Stanford to avoid any further disturbance. Cpl. Scott Russell was trying to keep Alex and several other members in their party away from us, with little success. As I looked over my right shoulder, I could see Cpl. Russell struggling with several people to include Alex and Justin's wife, Michelle."

Knott's report states that as deputies entered the service stairwell, Justin Zivojinovich began to struggle and swing his right elbow at Stanford's face.

He states that as he escorted Justin Zivojinovich to the ground he felt Alex Zivojinovich pushing into him.

"As the situation began to escalate with several people filling the stairwell, I removed my Taser (stun gun) and warned Alex to keep away. I turned to assist in handcuffing Justin and he began to thrash his body. I warned deputies of my intention to tase the wildly combative Justin."

Knott's report states that after the stun gun was then used on Justin, Alex was screaming obscenities and being extremely violent. Knott says Alex Zivojinovich ripped the police radio off of his uniform, "depriving me of calling for backup units."

Knott states that when Corporal Stanford attempted to pull Alex Zivojinovich away from him, the rock star - who arrest reports say stands 6 feet tall and weighs 230 pounds - grabbed her and shoved her down the steps, forcing her to fall on her back. Knott said that Stanford suffered injuries that required medical attention.

Alex Zivojinovich won Best Rock Talent in 1983 in the category "Guitar for the Practicing Musician." He was inducted into the Guitar for the Practicing Musician Hall of Fame in May of 1991. His Yugoslavian parents immigrated to Canada. His only formal training was during Rush's early days on the Toronto club circuit.

The Rolling Stone magazine Web site said Rush "carved itself a place in the prog-rock elite through three decades of popular releases."

"The band saw success throughout the '80s on the consistent release of albums, a rigorous touring schedule and a dedicated fan base," the Web site said.

Rush had a string of popular hits in the 1980s, such as the song "Tom Sawyer," from The Moving Pictures album of 1981. Other hits included "Limelight" and "Spirit of the Radio."