A New Jersey man faces charges of reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct after a Pink Floyd cover show he put on from his front porch drew about 30 people, violating orders to stay home and avoid social gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Rumson Police Department in Monmouth County responded to a call Sunday night of people gathered on a front lawn to attend "an acoustic concert of Pink Floyd's greatest hits," police said in a statement. Some in the crowd had brought lawn chairs and alcoholic beverages, according to a statement from the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and state police.
The gathering of people in their 40s and 50s were listening to two guitarists "equipped with microphones and amplifiers who were also broadcasting the concert via facebook live," Rumson police said.
Police said they tried to break up the crowd, telling them they were violating Gov. Phil Murphy's executive order "regarding these so called 'corona-parties.'" But audience members responded with "F-the police" and "Welcome to Nazi Germany," and the musicians, who were live-streaming on Facebook, continued playing.
"As the old saying goes, in the midst of all this chaos, the band still played on, that is until they were advised in the middle of the 1975 classic 'Wish You Were Here,' that they must stop the show," Police Chief Scott Paterson said in a statement. "Sadly I'm sure we all 'wish we could be here,' and the Rumson Police Department takes no enjoyment in ruining anyone's fun! However we ALL have a responsibility to take this pandemic SERIOUSLY and adhere to the social distancing requirement."
The guitarists finally stopped playing when an officer directly approached them, the attorney general's office said.
At that point, the homeowner, identified as John Maldjian, 54, told his Facebook audience that he would have to stop playing. He was also charged with violating emergency orders and two borough ordinances, according to the statement from the attorney general's office.
Mitchell Ansell, the attorney representing Maldjian, said in a statement that his client had only intended to stream his performance online, and had titled it "stay at home." He decided "last minute" to perform from his porch, but never invited people to come watch, Ansell said.
When a few neighbors did come, Maldjian saw they were practicing social distancing, but as it got dark, he did not realize how large the crowd had gotten, Ansell said. The statement said Maldjian was performing alone, not with a second guitarist.
The lawyer said his client also had "absolutely no knowledge of the horrible and vulgar things that people allegedly said to the police."
"He is disgusted that anyone would address the police in such a fashion. He hopes that whomever said these terrible statements is apprehended and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Ansell said.
Charges against people in the crowd are forthcoming, according to the attorney general's office.
"The Governor's executive orders are commonsense measures to keep people safe during this historic health crisis," New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said.
"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," he said. "Our police officers are working courageously every day to protect us all, and we will continue to charge anyone who violates the emergency orders, which literally are a matter of life and death."
Several people around the state face charges related to violating the governor's emergency orders, according to the attorney general's office. Those disorderly conduct charges carry up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, but counts can be enhanced depending on the situation, leading to five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000.