It's been four months since the Aronsons of Evergreen charged in a civil lawsuit that their neighbors, the Quigleys, tried to drive them out of town because the Quigleys hated Jews. Since that time, lawyers for each side have been busy gathering evidence showing numerous alleged low-level infractions of neighborly etiquette ("The Mud's Flyin'," February 22). Now the Quigleys are getting serious.
In a series of court documents filed in recent weeks, lawyers for the family have raised questions about the Aronsons' character and motives.
In addition, Westword has learned that the Aronson family has a financial history that is suspect--in particular, Mitchell's mysterious "disappearance" from New York City last summer during a business crisis.
The high-profile fracas between the Quigleys and the Aronsons began last fall. Shortly after the Aronsons moved from New York to Colorado in August, both families were hissing and spitting at each other over a series of trespasses involving each other's dogs and children. In October the Aronsons started taping the Quigleys' cordless-phone calls picked up over a police-band scanner.
Among the more than 1,200 pages of transcribed conversations that resulted from those taping sessions are allegedly anti-Semitic statements made by William and Dee Quigley. They also supposedly discussed--sometimes with each other, sometimes with neighbors--a plan to drive the Aronsons out of the area.
On December 6 the Aronsons filed a lawsuit accusing the Quigleys of ethnic intimidation and harassment in connection with an incident in which Mr. Quigley allegedly drove his car at Mrs. Aronson. (The Jefferson County district attorney also brought ethnic-intimidation charges against the Quigleys but later dropped them. A criminal charge of felony menacing as a result of the car incident is still pending against William Quigley; the preliminary hearing is scheduled for this week.)
In numerous legal motions, Mitchell and Candice Aronson claim they stumbled on the idea of recording the calls when their police scanner happened to pick up one of the Quigleys' cordless-phone calls. Attorneys for the Quigleys have a different explanation. In recently filed documents, they suggest the Aronsons had a working familiarity with surveillance equipment before they moved to Colorado. The information came out in an exchange between lawyers.
In a document filed earlier this year, the Quigleys referred to the Aronsons as "semi-professional voyeurs." The Aronsons' lawyers objected to the label. In a motion filed late last month, however, the Quigleys explained that they did not use the phrase lightly.
"This allegation," a lawyer for the Quigleys wrote, "is based on the account of a witness with firsthand knowledge and who himself offered the `voyeur' characterization and reported that the Aronsons owned eavesdropping equipment and engaged in surreptitious eavesdropping, similar to that used against the Quigleys, before moving to Colorado."
The Quigleys' lead attorney, Jay Horowitz, declined to elaborate on who the witness was or where he lived when he was the Aronsons' neighbor. According to motor vehicle records, the Aronsons have lived in New York, New Jersey and Florida.
An alleged proclivity for secret listening might not be the only bit of personal embarrassment to intrude on the Aronsons if the Quigleys have anything to say about it. Details of the Aronsons' finances just now emerging indicate the family has an unusual fiscal past. (Attorneys for both sides have said that they were ordered not to talk by the federal judge handling the case. Gary Lozow, who represents the Aronsons, specifically declined to discuss his clients' finances.)
Two months ago Westword reported that the Aronsons apparently suffered financial misfortunes before moving to Evergreen. In 1990 the condominium association representing a Florida resort area where Mitchell and Candice Aronson owned a home foreclosed on them for failing to pay dues. The case was "dismissed voluntarily," according to legal documents in Florida.
Interviews with people who know Mitchell Aronson, along with recent court filings in Denver, suggest he also had fiscal setbacks in New York City. According to Lee Berkowitz, president of Paper and Allied Trades, a New York credit-reporting agency for the graphic-arts trades, in 1982 Mitchell Aronson started 2M Graphics Inc., brokering deals between tradesmen and companies needing printing. Berkowitz's credit records show that in March 1990 the New York State Tax Commission filed three judgments against 2M for a total of $40,000 in unpaid taxes.
Last summer, Berkowitz says, the company apparently began running into financial difficulty again. Several suppliers on Manhattan's Lower East Side, where 2M had its offices, say payments owed to them by Mitchell Aronson's company began arriving later and later.
In August, however, Mitchell's father, Harry Aronson, told 2M's creditors that Mitchell had simply "disappeared" and that he--Harry--would be taking over the company, Berkowitz says. A month later, 2M Graphics Inc. voluntarily filed for dissolution under federal bankruptcy laws. The company listed debts of $473,500 and $187,500 in assets.
Although Mitchell started the company--and, according to various suppliers, ran it without Harry's help--the bankruptcy filing lists Harry as 100 percent owner and president. Mitchell's title is given as vice president, and he is listed only as a co-debtor on a portion of the company's outstanding bills.
People owed money by the Aronsons' company recall Mitchell vividly. "He's an asshole," says one man who is owed tens of thousands of dollars and who asks to remain anonymous. "The family lived like kings, and this guy fucked me."
Another 2M Graphics creditor described Mitchell as "a snob...I think he's a dirtbag. I'm an Italian, and if he was an Italian, I'd still call him a douchebag."
According to New York bankruptcy trustee Robert Fisher, Mitchell's personally secured portion of 2M's debt has been satisfied since the case was filed. He still, however, may be liable for some of the company's remaining debt.
2M Graphic's bankruptcy papers were drawn up on August 15--three days after Mitchell bought his Evergreen house. (People in New York familiar with the family say the money might have come from Candice, whose family reportedly is well-off.)
Land records in Jefferson County show the warranty deed for Mitchell Aronson's purchase of his house on Prima Lane for $550,000 was filed on August 12, 1994. Almost concurrent with the purchase, Mitchell turned the deed over to his wife. (Actually, he turned it over a week before the warranty deed was filed. The mistake was corrected in December. Currently, Candice Aronson is listed as owner of the Prima Lane property.)
Such a transaction, called a "quit claim," occurs frequently during marriage dissolutions when, say, a man turns the family house over to his ex-wife as part of a divorce settlement. Bankruptcy attorneys say it also could happen if a person were attempting to shelter his assets from creditors.
No one is saying that about Mitchell Aronson directly. But the Quigleys' lawyers (as well as many of 2M's furious New York creditors) say the timing of the Aronsons' bankruptcy filing in New York and their move to Colorado, where they purchased a half-million-dollar house, raises questions.
Westword also has learned that Mitchell was not the first Aronson to have trouble with finances. According to U.S. Department of Justice records, in 1983 Harry Aronson spent several months in a federal prison after being convicted of filing a fraudulent income-tax return.
Harry Aronson's phone number in Manhattan is unlisted. A lawyer for the family, Paul Milbauer, declines to comment on whether the same Harry Aronson is Mitchell's father. "What is this, the sins of the father?" he asks. "If a guy makes a mistake as a young man and his son has a neighborhood dispute, of what relevance is that?"
Still, Berkowitz says that Mitchell's 2M Graphics is the corporate continuation of a company called Harco Graphics, which was started by Harry in 1974--and dissolved in 1982 when the company's assets were turned over to its creditors. Berkowitz says it would have been difficult for Harry to start another company with his credit history.
The Aronsons' reputation in the printing business, Berkowitz says, "certainly is not of the highest character."
Such family history will--and should--be overlooked if the Aronsons ultimately manage to prove that the Quigleys orchestrated a campaign of ethnic hate against them. Until then, though, the dirt being dug up by both sides is proving painful to everyone.
The Aronsons, who have fared much better in press accounts of the neighborhood dispute, appear to be showing signs of stress. Last month Candice filed a complaint against her husband for threatening her during a domestic dispute. As of last week no court date had been set.
Meanwhile, the Quigleys have been ostracized in Evergreen, according to people close to the family.
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As the case has bumped through federal court, portions of transcripts from the Quigleys' phone conversations have become public record. In retrospect, much of the dialogue makes for ironic reading.
After one long phone conversation between the Quigleys during which they discuss their feud with the Aronsons, William Quigley cuts his wife short. "I just don't want to spend my life obsessing over them," he says. "No, we won't," she answers.
Later, William is heard objecting to one of his wife's suggestions of how to get back at the Aronsons. "We'd end up in court or something like that," he says. "I mean, the goal here is not to end up in court.
"I don't want to spend five or six thousand dollars on lawyers on basically bullshit.