No Further Review Of Use Of Stun Guns In Rush Guitarists Case, CCSO Says

By John Henderson, Naples Daily News, April 24, 2005

The Collier County Sheriff's Office plans no further review of the repeated use of stun guns on the lead guitarist for the rock group Rush and his son during their arrest.

The state dropped felony charges against Alex Zivojinovich and his son, Justin, after a judge ruled this past week that evidence didn't support a charge of resisting arrest with violence that was levied by the prosecution against Justin.

But the judge's decision, as well as a witness who says that Justin was in a defensive posture when deputies zapped him with a Taser stun gun in the stairwell of the Ritz-Carlton, Naples, won't prompt any internal investigation, said Sheri Mausen, a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman.

"We review the procedures (of Taser stun guns being shot). We do administrative review to determine that everything was done within current policies and procedures," she said. "In court, there is a different threshold that has to be met in order for criminal prosecution."

The Sheriff's Office requires deputies to file a report each time they fire a stun gun. In it, they justify their reasons for using it. That is reviewed by a supervisor, who determines whether an internal investigation is warranted.

In this case, supervisors determined there was no need for an internal investigation.

And that still holds true, Mausen said Friday.

The deputies' reports all paint the same picture: Justin and Alex were intoxicated, used foul language, and were violent toward deputies in the stairwell of the hotel as they were being escorted out of the hotel from a New Year's celebration ringing in 2004.

"Subject attacked a deputy while the deputy was arresting a separate person. Suspect pushed a deputy down a set of stairs and continued the attack after the deputy fell," writes sheriff's Sgt. Dave Kaye in his "Taser Use of Force Report," referring to Alex Zivojinovich, who is known on stage in the rock group Rush as Alex Lifeson.

But one witness saw it much differently.

John Cannivet, who was the assistant manager of stewarding at the hotel until leaving that job in January, watched the incident unfold in the stairwell. He said a female deputy was a few steps above Alex Zivojinovich, and grabbed Alex's throat and she pushed downward. He said the deputy, Amy Stanford, had leverage, and her move resulted in their tumbling down the stairs.

"They (deputies) didn't have to use that force," Cannivet said. "When they shot Justin (with a stun gun), Justin wasn't violent at all. He was walking with the police. All he did was quit walking."

Mausen said sheriff's officials, including Sheriff Don Hunter, carefully scrutinized the details of the deputies' reports justifying the use of the stun guns in this case.

Their conclusion: The deputies were in the right.

"That case was dissected," Mausen said.

Alex and Justin both accepted plea agreements Thursday that call for a year of probation and court costs with no jail time.

Deputies were escorting Justin out of the hotel after security complained he was unruly and belligerent in the ballroom, where a New Year's Eve celebration ringing in 2004 was occurring. Justin and his friends had gone onto the house band stage.

Hotel employees testified last week at Justin's trial, which was cut short when the pleas were reached, that Justin was verbally abusive, had used foul language, and taunted them when asked not to return to the stage.

They called deputies, who decided to escort him out of the hotel.

Deputy Christopher Knott testified that he felt a threat, or at least a potential threat, of physical violence when Justin broke free of a behind-the-back arm hold that he and Stanford had on Justin as they were escorting him out of the hotel.

He brought Justin to the ground in the stairwell, and he and another deputy eventually shot him twice with a stun gun. Knott said they opted not to use pepper spray because that would have affected everyone in the stairwell.

According to witness statements, Alex went charging up the stairs to go to the aid of his son as Justin was being shot with the stun gun, and a deputy punched Alex in the face to prevent him reaching the arresting officer.

Deputies also ended up shooting a Taser round at Alex, but both of the darts from the single shot didn't stick to his skin, so it didn't incapacitate him, Mausen said. So deputies then drove the stun gun against his body, known as a "drive" stun move.

She couldn't say how many times this occurred.

The father and son on Thursday pleaded no contest to the reduced charge of resisting arrest without violence, which will not go onto their records if they successfully complete probation.