Editorial: Rocker-Ritz-Taser Case Leaves Plenty For Review

Naples Daily News, April 27, 2005

A case that came in like a lion is going out like a lamb.

Violent resisting-arrest charges against father-and-son 2003 New Year's Eve revelers came to a climax reduced to nonviolent misdemeanors and accompanied by light fines ? and several reimbursements to be determined later, including one to the party site.

The fact that the pair had celebrity ? dad, Alex Zivojinovich of Canada, plays in the big rock band Rush ? and the fight with Collier County sheriff's deputies took place at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, put it on the front page and kept it there.

The outcome says plenty.

First, it says deputies need to be sure and clear about what happened and what gets written into official reports. This case withered when subjected to the other side of the story, including an eyewitness who used to work for the hotel. As defense counsel pointed out, there is a difference between loud behavior at a party and a crime.

Second, it says the Sheriff's Office needs to redouble scrutiny of its policy on the use of Tasers ? stun guns that pack an electrified jolt. The younger suspect, Justin Zivojinovich, was hit twice in the absence of clear evidence of him posing an immediate, violent threat to larger, trained officers.

The public is all for full protection of officers in harm's way.

Still, the public wants assurance that Tasers aren't used as self-fulfilling evidence that a suspect was out of control.

The Sheriff's Office now says it sees no need for further use-of-Taser review in the Zivojinovich case. Why not? This case, as well as a December case of a young man dying ? amid word that he was using drugs beforehand in North Naples ? and state and national Taser scrutiny, ought to give public safety officers plenty to troubleshoot.

Third, the prosecutor says the State Attorney's Office is pleased with the outcome because it affixes accountability with the accused. The senior Zivojinovich's post-verdict statement seems less clear, talking of "acceptance" but also "forgiveness" and "compromise."

Zivojinovich speaks of doing something, short of a rock 'n' roll concert, in appreciation for the community's support.

Others believe enough is enough. Let the Rush/New Year's saga end after Taser and prosecution lessons are exhausted.