D.A.‘s Office Drops Out of Neighbors’ Feud With Apology
DENVER (AP) _ While eavesdropping on their neighbors’ cordless phone conversations with a scanner, Mitchell and Candice Aronson say, they heard the Quigleys call them ``loud New York Jews.″
They listened in, they claim, as William and Dorothy Quigley talked of painting a large oven on the side of the Aronson home and tossing soap and lampshades on their lawn _ apparent references to the Holocaust.
``In the beginning, we thought about moving, but Jewish people have had a long history of being driven from homes ... and quite frankly, it got our backs up,″ Mitchell Aronson said. ``If we would have moved, we would just have succumbed to that kind of harassment that has been prevalent for centuries. I felt I had to take a stand.″
But what started as a neighborhood squabble over dogs and children led eventually to criminal charges, three lawsuits _ and, this week, an apology and $75,000 settlement from the district attorney to the Quigleys for pursuing charges of ethnic intimidation.
``People can say cruel things, but they may not violate the ethnic intimidation statute,″ said District Attorney Dave Thomas.
He dropped 13 felony charges against the Quigleys in January, saying there was no evidence to prove the allegations. A key problem was a change in federal law, effective Oct. 25, 1994, that made taping cordless telephone conversations illegal.
Thomas also said that none of the threats were made directly to the Aronsons and that the tone of their voices indicated the callers weren’t serious about carrying out the acts.
The problems began in the fall of 1994, a couple of months after the Aronsons moved from New York City to a house two doors away from the Quigleys in a well-to-do neighborhood of Evergreen, about 30 miles west of Denver.
The town just down the road from Buffalo Bill’s grave is in a fast-growing area of the Rocky Mountain foothills, favored by professionals who commute to Denver. William Quigley is a senior vice president of United Artists Theater Circuit Corp., the nation’s largest theater chain.
The couples’ pre-teen and teen-age children _ the Quigleys have two and the Aronsons three _ bickered.
Then the Quigleys complained that the Aronsons’ dog was roving onto their property. The Aronsons filed a counter-complaint about the Quigleys’ pet running loose.
Around Oct. 20, 1994, the Aronsons’ scanner intercepted a conversation from a cordless telephone. The couple began taping the telephone conversations and, in late 1994, turned the tapes over to Jefferson County authorities.
Over more than 40 hours of conversations taped by the Aronsons, the Quigleys allegedly made the Holocaust references and discussed dousing one of the Aronsons’ children with flammable liquid and throwing a hand grenade at their house.
The district attorney charged the Quigleys with ethnic intimidation, only to drop the case a few months later. Thomas said Tuesday his office agreed to pay the Quigleys and apologize to avoid being sued under the new federal wiretap laws.
The only surviving charge was against William Quigley, accused last fall of trying to hit Mrs. Aronson with his car. He pleaded no contest to reckless driving and was fined $330 and ordered to perform 30 hours of community service.
The Aronsons then sued the Quigleys in federal court, alleging they tried to drive them from their neighborhood because they are Jewish. The Aronsons revealed details of what they claim the Quigleys said in the taped phone calls, which have never been played publicly.
The Quigleys countersued, alleging invasion of privacy, and also filed suit against the Aronsons and Saul Rosenthal of the Colorado Anti-Defamation League, accusing them of conspiring to ruin the Quigleys’ reputation.
The Quigleys have denied the allegations and insisted they were the victims.
Their lawyer, Jay Horowitz, declined to comment Thursday because of a gag order imposed by a federal judge in April, but said earlier that the Quigleys are not ``Jew-haters″ and have ``been committed to supporting every Jewish (film) industry cause and Jewish charity.″
Aronson, a graphics artist, also declined to discuss the lawsuits. But he said he was disappointed with the county’s settlement and complained that the Quigleys were ``hiding behind a change in the telecommunications law.″
``I would challenge the Quigleys to play these tapes,″ he said. ``Either it will exonerate them or implicate me in a hoax. I’m willing to take that chance.″
Aronson said most of his neighbors have been supportive.
``When I used to ride down in my elevator in New York, it looked like a delegation of the United Nations,″ he said. ``We all lived together. Nobody really cared what you were, where you came from. You can kind of figure it’s that way everywhere.″
In Evergreen, he said, ``we landed on the wrong street. If we would have landed a block away, I would find it hard to believe there would be another individual in this neighborhood capable of the things that the Quigleys were.″