AC/DC's Rudd admits threat to kill
AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd has pleaded guilty in a New Zealand court to threatening to kill a man who used to work for him and possessing methamphetamine and marijuana.
Rudd faces up to seven years in prison on the threat to kill charge, although his lawyer Craig Tuck said the prosecution case boiled down to an angry phone call and he was seeking a remedy that would involve no legal consequences for Rudd.
Rudd acknowledged in a court summary of facts that he had offered large amounts of cash, vehicles and a house to an associate after asking him to have the victim "taken out" and that he also directly said to the victim he was going to kill him.
The 60-year-old drummer was released on bail pending a June sentencing hearing.
Rudd arrived at the Tauranga court in a sports car wearing sunglasses and a red tie and did not speak during his brief appearance other than to enter his guilty pleas.
It is unclear whether Rudd has a future with the Australian rock band he has been part of on and off for nearly 40 years. The band intends to use Welsh drummer Chris Slade for its upcoming Rock Or Bust album tour but has not said if that is a long-term arrangement.
By agreeing with prosecutors to enter the guilty pleas, Rudd avoided the need for a trial which was due to begin today. Prosecutors agreed to drop a second charge of threatening to kill and earlier, citing a lack of evidence, dropped a murder-for-hire charge.
According to the court summary, the dispute began in August on the night that Rudd released his solo album Head Job.
He threw a party at his marina restaurant, Phil's Place, to celebrate the launch and even the mayor of Tauranga attended. But as the night progressed, Rudd became concerned that security was not tight enough.
"The defendant was angry that the album launch did not go well," the court summary said. "As a result he sacked a number of people from his employment and professional team. This included, among other people, the victim who he was particularly angry with."
About four weeks later Rudd called an associate who was on holiday in Australia. Rudd told the man he wanted the victim "taken out", according to the court summary. When asked to clarify, Rudd said he wanted the victim "taken care of".
In another call, according to the summary, Rudd offered the associate "200,000 (New Zealand) dollars (£103,000), a motorbike, one of his cars or a house", which the associate took to mean as payment "for carrying out his earlier request".
The morning after calling his associate, Rudd called the victim directly, saying: "I'm going to come over and kill you," according to the court summary. He tried to call the victim again a couple of times after that but the man did not pick up the phone.
"As a result of threats made by the defendant, the victim was genuinely very fearful for his safety," the summary of facts stated.
The summary also outlines the November 6 search of Rudd's home when police found the drugs. When police arrived, Rudd was wearing jeans but no shirt, according to the summary.
"While being spoken to by the police, the defendant reached out to move a container containing cannabis crumbs from the coffee table and place it on the floor out of sight," the summary says.
Police found methamphetamine in Rudd's jeans pocket and in his bedroom and marijuana in several places, according to the court summary. In all, police found 0.48 grams of methamphetamine and 91 grams of marijuana.
Mr Tuck said he would be seeking a discharge without conviction in the case.
An unusual loophole in New Zealand law gives a judge the discretion not to enter a conviction even in cases where a defendant has pleaded guilty. A judge can do this if he or she thinks the consequences of a conviction outweigh the seriousness of the crime, a move which can allow a defendant to keep a clean record.
The judge in the case, Robert Wolff, said he would not enter a conviction against Rudd before hearing Mr Tuck's arguments.
Mr Tuck, a human rights lawyer who has acted for Rudd before, took over the case after Rudd dropped his previous lawyer, Paul Mabey.
He said the case had done enormous damage to Rudd's reputation and he was looking into legal remedies for that.