Rush Guitarist Pursues Lawsuit

By Cassandra Szklarski, Canadian Press, May 2, 2007

The truth behind a brutal skirmish with police that left Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson bloodied and burned has yet to be told, the musician said Wednesday as he vowed to pursue every legal recourse at his disposal.

The legendary Canadian rocker says he's appealing a U.S. court decision that last month cleared officers of wrongdoing in the sensational melee that also involved his son at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Naples, Fla., on New Year's Eve 2003.

Lifeson, whose real name is Alex Zivojinovich, says the ordeal has caused him immeasurable grief.

"I didn't sleep for months," Lifeson recalls of the altercation, in which he says he was punched in the face and Tasered several times.

"Not more than two hours. I was in total fear. My wife was in a deep depression and that was killing me to see that. She was worried that her husband and her son were going to jail and they were threatening me with 30 years in prison at the time. Like, I'm not the first person that's been beaten up in Florida . . . but I can't just not do something. I can't just let it go."

Already weary from a three-year legal battle to clear his name, Lifeson says the appeal could take months to get to court. He suggested that his band's upcoming tour and recent album release may have something to do with the drawn-out process.

"It's a wonderful play by their lawyers to get this delayed at a time when there's a lot of notoriety around the band," Lifeson says.

"We're going on tour, Rush fans are all excited, it's all fired up. If I was going to court, there'd probably be a lot of Rush fans there."

The skirmish allegedly started when Lifeson's son, Justin Zivojinovich, agitated hotel security by getting up on a platform where the house band had been performing.

Security called deputies, an altercation ensued and Lifeson and his son were charged. The pair accepted a plea deal that included no jail time but soon after sought to bring about their own legal case against the officers.

However, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson wrote in a ruling last month that deputies' actions "were objectively reasonable." The judge also ruled that the hotel and a security employee weren't negligent in the case.

"We have thousands of pages of documents, we have about 15 witnesses, we have video, we have so much compelling evidence of the brutality that we went through that night," Lifeson counters.

"To have it just thrown out, and to have a judge, who advocates me being punched in the face twice by two cops, breaking my nose and Tasering me six times, (deem it) as adequate and appropriate conduct on the part of the police, that's not right."

"I feel terrible for the guy who doesn't have any money or doesn't have any celebrity who this happens to all the time. . . . If I can do something to make it easier for the next guy who gets jumped on by the cops, then I'll feel good about it."

Rush kick off their world tour in June to promote their first album of new material in five years -- Snakes & Arrows, a collection of tracks that touch on spirituality and war.

Lifeson, 53, says he returned to his acoustic guitar in crafting the melodies, giving the disc an "organic" feel that also evokes some of Rush's previous work. He credits 36-year-old producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver) with injecting a youthful vigour to the sound.

The trio, known for such classic rock songs as Tom Sawyer and Roll the Bones, are set to visit more than 45 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada before travelling to the U.K. and Europe.

Homegrown fans get their first glimpse in Calgary in July, but most of the Canadian dates don't take place until September.

Lifeson says their travels won't include visits to any Ritz-Carlton hotels.

"We used to stay at Ritz-Carltons all over the place, we used to spend a lot of money with them," Lifeson says. "We don't now."