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SOUNDS OF SILENCE

A GAG ORDER LEAVES TROUBLING QUESTIONS ABOUT THE QUIGLEY-ARONSON FEUD.

Five weeks ago, Mitchell and Candice Aronson of Evergreen filed a civil lawsuit against their neighbors, William and Dorothy "Dee" Quigley, alleging a campaign of intimidation and harassment driven by anti-Semitism. The time immediately following the legal filing was hectic.

On December 7, one day after they filed their lawsuit, the Aronsons held a press conference. Later that day, the sheriff's department filed criminal charges against the Quigleys that were virtually identical to those in the civil suit. The following day, the Quigleys' lawyer held a press conference for his clients to respond.

Since then, attorneys for both sides say, the federal judge presiding over the case has told them not to discuss it publicly. So for the past three weeks there has been an unsatisfying halt in the flow of information about the dispute--particularly in light of the havoc its initial publicity caused--and some puzzling gaps in nearly every aspect of the case.

For example, William Quigley, a former movie-studio executive, has been branded as someone who hates Jews. Yet he has led a very public life, much of it surrounded by Jewish colleagues, with no known evidence of anti-Semitism before this.

And what about the Aronsons? Both families had played out a game of complaint and counter-complaint in Jefferson County's regulatory offices long before the lawsuit. Sources say the dispute may have all started with the families' kids and that the Aronsons are hardly blameless.

There are even unanswered questions about the lawsuit and the subsequent criminal charges filed against the Quigleys. Where, for example, did the Aronsons get the idea--not to mention the time and the energy--to audiotape nearly two weeks' worth of the Quigleys' phone conversations? What else did they hear? Why did they file a civil lawsuit when an investigation of duplicate criminal charges was pending?

Finally, on the sheriff's side, an even more specific question: Why did the district attorney decide to bring charges against the Quigleys despite a glaring gap in the sheriff's department's investigation?

The Quigleys
William Quigley's career path, by his choice, frequently has propelled him into the public spotlight. So his life is not difficult to trace.

His family is from Larchmont, a ritzy New York suburb. The family published a Neilsen-like ratings service for movies that surveyed movie theaters and calculated ticket sales. In 1973 William graduated from Connecticut's Wesleyan University, taught for a year in Kenya and later worked for Walter Reade Theaters, which runs several movie houses in New York, including the Ziegfeld in Manhattan.

In 1986 he moved on to Vestron Pictures, a new, independent movie studio, arriving at what appears to have been a very heady time. The studio's first production, Dirty Dancing, was a surprise hit. Unfortunately, a string of failures--some of them co-produced by Quigley--led to the studio's demise three years later.

Many of Quigley's early associates are Jewish; many went on to become incredibly successful. Says one of those executives, who requested anonymity, "It's almost frightening how well we did."

Vestron's treasurer, Sheldon Rabinowitz, is now vice president of finance at Sony Pictures in California. Vestron executive vice president Stephen Einhorn is now president of New Line Home Video. Strauss Zelnick, Vestron's president, moved to the 20th Century Fox studio. At the beginning of this year he was hired to head BMG Publishing, which owns, among other things, the Arista and RCA record labels. Quigley, meanwhile, went to work for a bowling company.

None of the people who worked with Quigley would speak for attribution. Commenting candidly, however, they agree that he was quick-tempered, possibly bitter over his former colleagues' success and his relative failure in the movie business--and that he was not prejudiced against Jews.

"I worked with Bill. At times I was contentious with him," recalls one executive who is Jewish. "But nothing of a biased or prejudiced nature ever came out--and I was in some pretty heated situations with him."

Adds another Jewish executive who worked closely with Quigley: "Most of the people who worked for Bill were Jewish, and I think anti-Semitism is hard to hide. And it never once came out."

But, the executive continues, "Bill's kind of a bitter guy. He failed miserably at Vestron. He was way out of his depth. He was just the kind of guy to blame it on someone else."

Quigley, who is now 43 years old, was hired two years ago by United Artists as vice president in charge of marketing and new business. He arrived in Evergreen in 1993, moving into the first home built in the Ridge, the high-rent subdivision (homes sell for upwards of $500,000) that was soon to become the site of a low-rent neighborhood squabble.

The Aronsons
Unlike Quigley, much less is known about Mitchell and Candice Aronson. Mitchell is 39 and Candice is 42. Department of Motor Vehicles records show that Mitchell lived in New York, New Jersey and Florida. At the December 7 press conference, he said he was a graphic artist. Some Evergreen residents who have come into contact with the family say he made money in computers.

New York State corporation records show two businesses listed under Aronson's name. A spokeswoman for the corporations division says that both Four State Press, Inc., and Citation Graphics were dissolved in 1992, after Aronson didn't pay franchise taxes on them three years in a row.

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