Rush is a Band

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Neil Peart, Geddy Lee & Alex Lifeson

Fri, Nov 22, 2019

Alex Lifeson on the Ritz Carlton incident in Ontario Golf Magazine

Thu, Jun 22, 2006@4:10PM | comments

Alex MugshotYesterday I posted some excerpts from the Ontario Golf Magazine interview with Alex Lifeson. In addition to the interview, there was a half-page mini article on the New Year's Eve Ritz Carlton incident. Alex gives his side of the story and really opens up about his feelings regarding the event and how it affected him. Here's the entire text of the article.

Between a Rock (Star) and a Hard Place

New Year's Eve 2003 is a night Alex Lifeson would rather forget. That night he was out at the high-end Ritz Carlton hotel in Naples, Florida, for a celebratory dinner. But soon after his son, Justin, jokingly stepped up on the stage where the house band had been playing, to sing a song to his wife, Michelle, several police officers arrived to arrest him. That's when all hell broke loose.

According to Lifeson, the police escorted his son out a back entrance and into a stairwell without telling anyone why they were detaining him. At one point, they took Justin down the stairs with his arms behind his back. He struggled to get free due to the pain, which led to one of the police accidentally falling down the flight of stairs. The situation became more frantic, with Justin being hit with a taser gun four times. According to Lifeson, he protested the violence being committed against his son and had his nose broken by one of the officers for his comments. Hew was also at the receiving end of several taser shots.

By the time it was all over, Lifeson and his son were arrested and mug shots of the bloodied rock star, still wearing his tuxedo shirt, were paraded throughout the international media. Headlines trumpeted the fact that police alleged Lifeson had spat blood on one officer.

Lifeson says he was hurt by the comments that accused him of being drunk and beligerent. In fact, he never intended to go out for New Year's, he says, and only attended the event because of friends. Still, the celebration was kept to a minimum - after all, Lifeson had an early morning golf game scheduled the next day with his friend and PGA Tour player, Rocco Mediate. And he never spat blood on anyone, he maintains. But after his nose was broken, Lifeson relates, he had great difficulty breathing, which led to blood spraying as he attempted to catch his breath.

The charges against Lifeson were serious, including four felonies - namely, resisting an officer with violence, which could have resulted in five years in prison.

The case against Lifeson came apart in the months following his arrest. A Ritz Carlton employee came forward to dispute the police account of what had happened in the stairwell, and the prosecutor lost much of his appetite for pursuing the high profile case.

In the end, all but two charges remained against Lifeson and his son, and since neither were felonies with jail time attached, the guitarist was advised to take a deal which would see him face 12 months of probation and plead "no contest" to the remaining charges. Lifeson and his management company have since launched a lawsuit against the Ritz Carlton and three of the police officers for brutality.

Even now, two-and-a-half years after the incident, the memories are intense.

"Some of the headlines in Canada said it was 'rock 'em, sock 'em night,' which was really insulting since they had no idea what actually happened," Lifeson says, noting he struggled with depression and was deeply wounded by some of the post-arrest coverage. "But it is behind me now."