NJ IP Atty In Hot Water Over Pink Floyd Covers Concert

By Emma Cueto
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Law360 (April 6, 2020, 4:08 PM EDT) -- A New Jersey intellectual property attorney is facing criminal charges for allegedly holding an acoustic concert of Pink Floyd's greatest hits that drew about 30 people to his property and the immediate area, according to prosecutors and local police, in defiance of the state's coronavirus-related stay-at-home order.

John Maldjian of the Maldjian Law Group has been charged with reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct, along with two charges of violating emergency orders, in connection with the party allegedly held at his home in Rumson, New Jersey, on Saturday.

Charges are also expected against some of the partygoers who allegedly resisted police efforts to break up the gathering, prosecutors said.

"The governor's executive orders are common-sense measures to keep people safe during this historic health crisis," New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement. "When people like the partiers in Rumson flout the orders and show disrespect and hostility to police officers, they not only put themselves and the others immediately involved in peril, they risk inciting others to engage in such irresponsible and dangerous behavior."

Maldjian has denied that it was his intention to host a large gathering, with his attorney saying in a statement that Maldjian never intended to host an in-person gathering and only set out to perform over Facebook Live for his friends.

Once Maldjian started playing, alone, on his front porch, some neighbors came out to watch while keeping a safe distance from one another, according to Maldjian's attorney, Mitchell J. Ansell. Although the crowd later grew to an unsafe size, Maldjian was unable to see this because the sun had gone down, Ansell said.

"John Maldjian had absolutely no malicious intentions on Saturday night, and never wanted this to escalate like it has," Ansell said in a statement. "My client did make the mistake of conducting this virtual concert on his front porch. This is a mistake that John will have to live with for the rest of his life. He is truly sorry for making this decision, and wishes to convey his apology to not only the Rumson Police Department, but to the entire community at large."

Ansell also said that Maldjian was "disgusted" by the reports that attendees hurled insults at police, saying that he dedicated his performance to health care workers.

According to Rumson police, officers noticed the gathering of about 30 people while on patrol, estimating that attendees were all 40 to 50 years of age and noting that some had brought lawn chairs. In a Facebook post about the incident, the police also alleged that there were two guitarists — not just Maldjian playing alone — and that the performance included microphones and amplifiers.

The officers reportedly told everyone the concert needed to end in the middle of a rendition of the 1975 song "Wish You Were Here."

Rather than peacefully dispersing, the crowd allegedly made comments such as "welcome to Nazi Germany" and "F— the police," according to the Facebook post. Prosecutors also claim the band continued playing even with flashing police lights on the scene and officers directing people to disperse.

"Rumson Police Department takes no enjoyment in ruining anyone's fun," the police said on Facebook. "However we all have a responsibility to take this pandemic seriously and adhere to the social distancing requirement. We also need to be a good role model for our children and be kind and understanding during these times."

On March 21, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered residents to stay at home except for necessary trips such as seeking health care, going to work at an essential business, or obtaining essential goods.

As of Monday afternoon estimates, New Jersey has reported 41,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,003 deaths, most in northern New Jersey.

--Editing by Daniel King.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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