By Cassandra Szklarski
Posted From - <a href="http://jam.canoe.ca/Music/" target="_new">JAM! Music<a>
TORONTO (CP) - 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," is set to visit more than 45 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada before travelling to the U.K. and Europe.
Lifeson says he's looking forward to debuting the new material and revisting some old gems for fans. But not all of Rush's old material has stood the test of time, he concedes.
"It's like a kid growing up - your children, they go through phases where they're jerks and you wish they didn't but you can't take that back," he says.
"That's the way that I look at our records. There are moments that I cringe, but they're done. We tried something, it worked, it didn't work. I read a lot of postings on some of these blogs and it's so interesting to kind of get into the heads of Rush fans and the songs that they like. Some of the things from the past that I thought just squeaked by, they're the most important moments for them."
He says the song that sticks out for him the most is "Tai Shan," from the 1987 album, "Hold Your Fire." He calls it "a good idea at the time," but lacking in execution.
Homegrown fans get their first glimpse of Rush's new material 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."