RUMSON — The attorney for the man whose front yard was the site of a musical performance police called a "corona party"  Saturday said it was not intended to draw a crowd.

Rumson police said they were met with chants of "F the police" when they broke up the gathering at John Maldjian's Blackpoint Road home as he performed Pink Floyd songs for an audience of 30 adults in their 40s. Some of the attendees brought their own lawn chairs, police said.

The gathering was in violation of Gov. Phil Murphy's executive order prohibiting gatherings of any size in an effort to encourage social distancing and slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

But Maldjian attorney, Mitchell Ansell, in a statement on Monday night said the party was promoted on Maldjian's Facebook page as a "stay at home" concert — with its audience meant to stream it online. He made a last-minute decision to perform on his front porch, Ansell said.

According to a screenshot posted by the Asbury Park Press, he was going to begin performing at "7 or 7:30 p.m." Ansell said that "a couple of his neighbors came over to watch, practicing social distancing."

 

As it got darker, Ansell said, Maldjian was unaware of the crowd that had gathered.

The concert was dedicated to healthcare workers, according to Ansell.

"He never intended, nor invited, a crowd of people to come watch him play in person," Ansell wrote.

When police arrived, Maldjian  stopped performing and went in the house, Ansell said. The attorney also said only his client had performed, though Rumson police had previously said two people were performing.

Maldjian, 54, was charged with reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct, and two separate charges related to violating the emergency orders. One person at the gathering, Ryan Sheftel, 46 of Rumson was charged Monday with with disorderly conduct and violating a borough ordinance by disturbing the peace, according to the Attorney General's office. Sheftel yelled insults at the Rumson police as they broke up the crowd, a statement from the office said.

"Most importantly, John has absolutely no knowledge of the horrible and vulgar things
that people allegedly said to the police," Ansell said. "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 that the decision to perform on the front porch 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 wrote.

Maldjian is a musician who had several performances at several Monmouth County restaurants, according to the website allevents.in during 2018 and 2019. "John is a talented local musician. He is available to play for private parties and at local venues. Check this page for all of his upcoming events," reads the website.

He is also an intellectual property attorney for the Maldjian Law Group, with offices in Tinton Falls and New York.

The incident drew sharp criticism from Gov. Phil Murphy and State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan at Monday's daily briefing by state officials about the coronavirus crisis.

"These parties may lead to someone not being on a ventilator, and that's the truth of it," Callahan said.

It also helped prompt Murphy's use of the term "jackass" — who likened people violating his orders to stay home and avoid gatherings to donkeys said to have been carried across landmines in wartime.

"To all the jackasses out there and all the knuckleheads get with the program. We will not relent until we have 100% compliance," Murphy said.

The governor added that he is also a Pink Floyd fan.

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