News Segment


March 23, 2004

It wasn’t exactly a Rush decision.

After a three-month investigation, Florida prosecutors filed two charges of battery against Alex Lifeson, lead guitarist and founding member of Canadian prog-rock trio Rush, stemming from his arrest following a New Year’s Eve brawl.

Lifeson, whose real name is Alex Zivojinovich, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on the assault charges.

The Naples Daily News reports that the altercation at the local Ritz Carlton Hotel began when someone called security on the guitarist whiz’s son, 33-year-old Justin Zivojinovich.

According to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, the younger Zivojinovich refused to exit the stage after joining the house band (led by Freddy Cole, the 71-year-old younger brother of Nat King Cole) -to sing his wife a song shortly after midnight.

When security tried to boot Justin out of the $650-a-couple event, the 50-year-old Lifeson decided to intervene. A brawl ensued.

The police claim the rocker grabbed a female deputy’s shirt and knocked her down a stairwell and then spat blood in another officer’s face. Officers used a stun gun to subdue the rocker.

Lifeson spent a day in jail before posting $15,000 bail. He later told reporters that his nose was broken in the confrontation.

A part-time resident of Naples, Lifeson was initially booked on six charges, four of which were felonies that could’ve netted the fret-man 30 years in prison if found guilty. However, after an investigation, the state attorney’s office reduced the charges to two counts of assault on a law enforcement official, third-degree felonies punishable by up to five years in jail per count.

Justin Zivojinovich was charged with one count of resisting arrest with violence, and his 30-year-old wife, Michelle, was rung up on a charge of resisting arrest. Prosecutors declined to fine disorderly intoxication against both father and son, given the seriousness of the other charges against him.

The female officer Lifeson reportedly assaulted sustained cuts to her knees and now has “intense neck and back pains” after landing on concrete at the bottom of the stairs. (We smell lawsuit.)

The musician’s lawyer could not be reached for comment. A publicist for Rush was also unavailable.

A trial date for Lifeson and son has been scheduled for May 17.

While Lifeson is allowed to travel under the terms of his bail, his pending court case could interfere with Rush’s much-hyped 30th anniversary tour. Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart are planning to kick off the trek in Antioch, Tennessee, on May 26 and crisscross North America through the summer before wrapping up in their hometown of Toronto on Aug. 22.

The seminal band, which began its career in 1974 and has sold more than 35 million albums worldwide, also plans to head over to Europe in September for its first gigs there in more than a decade.

No word on whether there’s a contigency plan should Lifeson wind up behind bars.

Josh Grossberg courtesy of E! Online