RUSH Guitarist, Family Sue Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Three Florida Deputies

June 2, 2005

Chris W. Colby and John Henderson of the Naples Daily News have issued the following report:

A founder of the band RUSH, his son and daughter-in-law filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Ritz-Carlton, its security director and three sheriff's deputies stemming from a New Year's Eve 2003 altercation at the Naples hotel.

Alex, Justin and Michelle Zivojinovich allege the defendants violated their civil rights, battered and falsely imprisoned them before their arrests on criminal charges that were either later dropped or reduced in court.

Alex Zivojinovich suffered a broken nose during a scrape with the deputies, one of whom he was accused of pushing down a stairwell.

Justin Zivojinovich was roughly subdued and hit with a high-voltage Taser gun repeatedly before his arrest. His father also suffered several Taser hits.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Myers, seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages for injuries, pain and suffering, mental anguish and the costs of their defense to the charges, filed in Collier County Circuit Court.

Michael R.N. McDonnell, a Naples attorney who represented Michelle and Justin Zivojinovich in their criminal cases, said the trio had no comment Thursday. A Canadian production company representing Alex Zivojinovich, known onstage as Alex Lifeson, may later issue a press release.

The suit names as defendants HMC BN Ltd. Partnership, doing business as The Ritz-Carlton in Naples; Frank Barner, the hotel security director; and Collier County sheriff's deputies Christopher Knott, Scott Russell and Amy Stanford.

The altercation that led to the Zivojinoviches' arrest began when Justin twice went onstage where musicians were performing. According to the suit, Barner told Justin to not get back on stage or he would be required to leave the hotel.

"Plaintiff Justin strictly complied with that request and never set foot on the stage again, and in fact began peacefully eating his dinner," according to the suit.

Barner then told hotel staff to call 911 and evict Justin. However, Barner never told Justin that, according to the suit.

"Employees of defendant Ritz falsely advised the Collier County Sheriff's Office that plaintiff Justin was engaged in dangerous and destructive behavior, when in truth and in fact that was not true," according to the suit.

The deputies arrived and ordered Justin to gather his belongings so he could be escorted away. But the deputies never gave Justin the chance to leave on his own accord, according to the suit. Instead, they physically restrained him and forced him to walk through a back hallway toward a stairwell leading to a rear entrance.

"During that time, defendants Knott and Stanford applied illegal and unjustified force, and such force was excessive, causing plaintiff Justin severe discomfort and pain," according to the suit.

As he was led away, Justin yanked his right arm from Stanford's grasp to alleviate his discomfort. Stanford and Knott then forced Justin to the floor "with excessive force."

"Defendant Knott then, again without legal authority or justification, applied the effects of a Taser gun consisting of some 50,000 volts of electricity on plaintiff Justin's body with excessive force, causing further discomfort and pain," according to the suit. Knott and Russell then hit Justin with the Taser again multiple times.

He was then handcuffed by Barner with assistance from the three deputies.

"Plaintiff Michelle, in fear for the safety of her husband plaintiff Justin, verbally complained about the illegal and excessive force used against her husband and was arrested by defendant Russell without probable cause or any legal authority," according to the suit.

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