THE MUD'S FLYIN'
Three months ago, when the Aronson family of Evergreen filed a lawsuit against their neighbors the Quigleys, charging them with anti-Semitism, it set off a barrage of criticism against the Quigleys and inspired a slew of soul-searching editorials about how Jew-haters still roam Colorado. Following a round of outraged newspaper articles (inspired by dueling press conferences), the case has been winding its way through federal court.
Here are some of the fascinating things the families have had to say in legal documents filed recently:
Candice Aronson allegedly called Dee Quigley "a fat-assed bitch" and a "pig" and referred to the Quigleys as "pieces of shit."
The Aronsons are Jewish, but, the Quigleys suspect, not very.
The Quigleys' alleged anti-Semitic statements were inspired by the black humor of Jewish comics.
The Aronsons' teenage children were mean to the Quigleys' children and even swore in front of them.
The Quigleys think the Aronsons are "semi-professional voyeurs" who "figuratively raped" them.
Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that a nasty neighborhood dispute has yielded an ugly lawsuit. Yet a review of the families' most recent legal filings--a federal district court judge has directed the opposing attorneys not to comment publicly on the case--reveals something else.
The Aronsons' lawsuit against their neighbors has degenerated. In fact, Aronson v. Quigley, which started as a serious case of alleged anti-Semitism, seems to have turned into little more than a dirt-digging contest between lawyers.
William and Dee Quigley and their three children moved to the exclusive Ridge development (home prices are about $500,000) in 1993. Mitchell and Candice Aronson and their four children moved a door down from the Quigleys a year later.
The Quigleys claim the two families got along at first. "During the three weeks immediately following the Aronsons' arrival in Evergreen," a Quigley document notes, "the Quigleys entertained the Aronsons and the Aronsons' children at two separate parties at the Quigleys' home."
Soon after that, however, the families apparently decided to devote most of their waking hours to harassing each other. After a series of clashes involving both families' dogs, children and adults, the Aronsons began taping the Quigleys' cordless-phone conversations.
Transcribed, the conversations come to more than 1,200 pages, according to court testimony. Some of the Quigleys' private discussions appear to have had an anti-Semitic tone, if the Aronsons' transcripts are accurate.
By now the more egregious examples have become well known and have turned the Quigleys into local villains. The Quigleys, for example, supposedly are heard talking about tossing lamp shades and bars of soap on the Aronsons' front lawn, dousing the Aronson children with a flammable liquid and taping an oven-door cutout on the Aronsons' house.
On December 6 the Aronsons sued the Quigleys, charging them with harassment and ethnic intimidation. The next day Jefferson County filed similar criminal charges against the Quigleys. But the district attorney dropped the charges a month later after concluding he didn't have the evidence to prove his case.
Recent legal filings by the Quigleys' lawyers raise serious questions about the Aronsons' case. According to a counterclaim filed on January 18, the Aronsons drastically edited some of the tapes so as to depict their neighbors in the worst possible light. In one instance, the Quigleys allege the Aronsons distilled a 100-minute conversation into five minutes' worth of transcript.
In addition, the Quigleys now say that, after reviewing the transcripts, the Aronsons in several instances misidentified the taped telephone speakers. An accurate transcription of the tapes will reveal "that the Quigleys never intended to harm" their neighbors, lawyers for the Quigleys argue.
Yet much of the remainder of the lawsuit concerns itself with detailing a neighborhood squabble that seems more remarkable for its banality than for any threatening behavior. For example, we now know a number of important things about the Aronsons and Quigleys:
Mitchell Aronson and William Quigley both allegedly used their cars as weapons. Or, alternately, both are bad drivers. As part of the original lawsuit, Candice Aronson claimed that William Quigley drove at her in a menacing way while she was sitting in her car. Quigley seems to confirm this in one of the transcripts, telling his wife, "I didn't hesitate. I just, vroom...you know, and plowed through."
According to a filing last month, however, Dee Quigley claims that sometime in mid-October, she was a victim of poor carsmanship, too. Mitchell and Candice allegedly "drove their car very closely behind Dee Quigley, and Mitchell Aronson honked at her loudly and for a sustained time. At the same time, Candice Aronson leaned from the passenger's seat and yelled...`You fat-assed bitch, get off the road, you pig. I'll get you.'"
Both families allegedly use bad words. According to the telephone transcripts, some of the ways the Quigleys supposedly referred to their neighbors were "those fucking Aronsons" and, in the case of Mrs. Aronson, a "disgusting slut." In October Mr. Quigley supposedly leaned out of his car and called one of the Aronson children a "stupid asshole."
As for the Aronsons, they also cussed (see "car driving," above). Especially the kids. As the Quigleys contend in their January 18 counterclaim, "The Aronson children regularly used gross obscenities in the presence of the Quigleys and the Quigleys' children, such as `fuck,' `shit,' `cunt,' and `cocksucker.'"
Despite this slew of mutual swearing, both families seem very sensitive to it. As a result of the Aronsons' bad language, for instance, "the Quigley children gradually were ostracized from the neighborhood and required to remain inside their home, rather than play outside."
The Aronsons' attorneys, meanwhile, seem appalled that the Quigleys would include swear words in their legal filings. The Quigleys' lawyers, they huff, "reach a scatological frenzy in describing the Aronsons' conduct...The use of the term `profanity' could have easily covered the point, if any, to be made."
Finally, while most people who read newspapers probably are familiar with the Quigleys' supposed anti-Semitic vocabulary, they may be interested to know its origin.
According to a January 26 letter from one of the Quigleys' attorneys, Jay Horowitz, to one of the Aronsons', Stuart Kritzer, the Quigleys' nasty language is "a paraphrase of Jewish humorists' and commentators' sarcasm." Indeed, Horowitz points out, "the making of these comments does not indelibly stamp the speakers as anti-Semitic. If it does, you will find Jewish persons, and intelligent Jewish persons, whom you also can sue for ethnic intimidation."
Both families are of a declared faith, although how religious they are is unclear. In the counterclaim, lawyers for the Quigleys helpfully point out that "the Quigleys are Catholic." Later, the same lawyers note that "upon information and belief, the Aronsons are Jewish, but neither actively practice Judaism."
The Aronsons' attorneys have questioned whether this information is necessary. "What information, what belief?" they ask in a February 6 filing. "Is it an affirmative defense to the Ethnic Intimidation claim or others that the Aronsons' synagogue attendance is less than weekly?...When did the Quigleys become the arbiters of Jewish identity...?"
Both families own bad dogs. According to one telephone transcript, the Quigleys' dog, a shepherd/sheltie mix named Cody, discovered he preferred to poop on the Aronsons' lawn. This behavior allegedly was not discouraged by his owners.
The Aronsons' dog, a chow/Labrador mix named Bear, also was not neighborly. According to the Quigleys' counterclaim, Bear once beat up Cody, leaving him "bloodied and traumatized for several days."
Bear also allegedly once pinned Dee Quigley against her car. And on several occasions, according to the Quigleys' counterclaim, when Candice Aronson saw the Quigleys walking Cody by the house, she would run to the front yard and instruct Bear to "go sic them, Bear; go get them."
Lawyers for both sides are outraged--outraged!--at the way the other side has pandered to the press. In a February 6 motion, the Aronsons' attorneys, who held a press conference with the Anti-Defamation League the day after their clients' lawsuit was filed, scold the Quigleys' attorneys for seeking publicity. A number of paragraphs in the Quigleys' counterclaim, they charge, "are less a matter of appropriate pleading than a press release."
Lawyers for the Quigleys, meanwhile, who held their own press conference soon after the Aronsons', are equally distressed at the Aronsons' manipulation of the media. "Sadly," Quigley lawyer Horowitz writes to Aronson lawyer Kritzer, "what makes this case in general particularly troubling [is] your evident desire to again disseminate more of your version to the press."
Everybody plotted against each other, and to sort it all out takes a lot of lawyers. According to the original lawsuit, the Quigleys conspired to drive the Aronsons out of Evergreen. In support of this are taped telephone conversations in which they supposedly discuss "Operation Aronson," a plan to "isolate the Aronsons," and make references to expecting to see a "For Sale" sign in front of the Aronsons' house soon.
In their counterclaim, the Quigleys accuse the Aronsons of several conspiracies. The first was to trap them. ("The Aronsons' modus operandi was to provoke an incident with the Quigleys and then return to their home to illegally eavesdrop upon and to record the Quigleys' frustration with the Aronsons.") Next was to smear them. ("The Aronsons' campaign of hate reached its apogee with the Aronsons' decision to mount a public campaign against the Quigleys which would falsely portray the Quigleys as virulent anti-Semites.")
Also involved in the conspiracies, supposedly, was Saul Rosenthal, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. For instance, the Quigleys allege that during the Aronsons' press conference, Rosenthal commented on the irony that United Artists--William Quigley's employer--had arranged the local showing of Schindler's List, when one of its employees was an anti-Semite.
Yet, the Quigleys charge, "Rosenthal concealed the fact that Bill Quigley personally had arranged the exhibitions of Schindler's List...Rosenthal knew that to have disclosed these facts would have revealed the absurdity of vilifying the Quigleys as anti-Semites..." (Rosenthal has denied he was involved in any conspiracy against the Quigleys and has asked that the charges against him be dismissed.)
Digging up so much dirt takes a lot of effort. So far, the various claims and counterclaims have grown to the point where it has become necessary for nine lawyers to work on the lawsuit. The next hearing for Aronson v. Quigley is scheduled for February 22.
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