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Phil Rudd Sentenced To Eight Months Home Detention

July 9, 2015

An austere courtroom in provincial New Zealand seemed like the strangest place for discussing the fortunes of one of the world's greatest rock bands and its erstwhile, drug-addled drummer.

But there it was in the Tauranga District Court on Thursday morning - the Crown suggesting AC/DC didn't want Phil Rudd, the defence saying he was integral to the band's sound and the Judge pointing out that, hey, Queen replaced Freddie Mercury.

It was probably the most sensational sentencing Judge Thomas Ingram had presided over and he did a good job of pointing out the obvious: "The only ones who can truly understand a rock star lifestyle are those who've lived it. You've lived it, I haven't."

At one point it looked as though Judge Ingram was going to send Rudd, the on-again, off-again drummer for the Aussie rockers since 1975, to the clink for threatening to kill his former body guard and possessing "substantial quantities" of methamphetamine and cannabis.

But like an actor in a dramatic scene Ingram let the tension in his courtroom build - Rudd himself started twitching and looking around the room when a jail term seemed imminent - before deciding on a home detention sentence.

It came with a warning: Ingram "stone cold guaranteed" Rudd would go straight to prison if he breached the terms of his sentence.

Clearly relieved, Rudd repeatedly said: "I understand".

Rudd's lawyer, Craig Tuck, had played a bold hand: calling on the judge to discharge his client without conviction on the grounds that the consequences of a conviction - essentially the end of his career with AC/DC - would far outweigh the gravity of the offending.

Crown prosecutor Anna Pollett had begun proceedings by describing how Rudd had sacked the victim when his solo album launched flopped last year. He sacked several workers but seemed particularly displeased with the victim, a bodyguard who'd become his personal assistant.

He rang an associate who was holidaying in Australia and said he wanted the man "taken out", offering $200,000, a motorbike, a car or house as payment.

He later rang the victim and threatened to come around and kill him, Pollett said.

She described the fear the victim felt when Rudd threatened to kill him, given Rudd's access to money and his "other connections".

He was so worried he constantly checked that the doors and windows on his house were locked. He was also worried that making a complaint against Rudd, his former boss, would make him unemployable.

Pollett said the defence submission that Rudd was in the midst of a methamphetamine-induced psychosis when the offending happened should carry no weight with the court.

She said Rudd had already enjoyed two discharges without conviction, one in 2007 for a domestic-type common assault with threatening behaviour and another in 2011 for possession of cannabis.

Pollett disputed that Rudd would lose millions of dollars because a drug conviction would stop him touring to places like the US, Canada and Japan with AC/DC.

"There is an absence of evidence that he has any place in the band at the present time, let alone prospects of touring with them in future." Pollett said Rudd's involvement in the band had ended well before his arrest, because of his behaviour.

She urged a prison term, with 20 months the starting point.

Tuck took his feet and began with a dramatic statement: "The Crown submissions simply come from another planet."

Tuck promised his submissions would be full of facts, not supposition.

He described how Rudd had taken part in restorative justice with his victim, which involved the payment of a substantial sum of money (Judge Ingram suppressed the amount).

The process was a "profound experience for all concerned" and the victim had acknowledged "the wrong had been put right".

The victim was no 90-pound weakling. "He's a very effective machine when it comes to defending himself and others. This is a man who is 140kg of business," Tuck said.

Rudd spent $500,000 on security and the victim was the head of that team.

Tuck said Rudd had had a 40-year career and played over 1500 concerts, only missing a few days work.

It became clear to his friends and family late last year that his behaviour was out of control and he was showing the signs of methamphetamine psychosis. He'd had a life-long struggle with anxiety and anger.

He came close to the point of nervous collapse, and along with his drug addiction, it created a "perfect storm" in his life.

He said Rudd was surrounded by "fleas" who took advantage of him and took what they wanted.

"Half the time I didn't know who was in my house...and what substances they had with them," Rudd said in an affidavit.

He was now seeing a psychiatrist.

Tuck read evidence from an LA music industry friend of Rudd's who described him as one of the best three rock drummers in the world, with a unique style.

The friend described his downfall as a "textbook" case. "Phil needed help and we watched powerless from a distance. Many tears were shed by those close to him."

A conviction would impact on his ability to travel the world as a session player, the friend said.

Tuck said a conviction could cost "tens of millions" in lost income.

Tuck said as of last November, Rudd was still listed on AC/DC's website as its drummer. He had played on most of the albums and tours. As for as his prospects of rejoining the band, Tuck said: "While it may be uncertain, it's certainly not a closed door."

He said Rudd was cleaning up his life, "getting rid of the fleas".

But Pollett disputed that, saying that as recently as June, Rudd had called police to his house and was behaving strangely. He was pacing up and down talking to himself and couldn't engage with the officers.

Tuck said that was just supposition. When Rudd didn't have his false teeth in or was suffering anxiety, Tuck said, "all of a sudden he's an out of control drug user".

Judge Ingram said it was obvious Rudd was someone who needed help with his drug addiction.

The material he had read "paints a picture of a man who's not handling the pressures on him at all well - you're described as leading a chaotic lifestyle."

It was clear the temptations of a rock star life had been his downfall.

"You're a relatively fragile man who has felt bound to live the rock star lifestyle."

The judge said he was not convinced that Rudd's drumming was integral to AC/DC. "Queen replaced Freddie Mercury...AC/DC are still going without you."

There was no clear evidence before the court that Rudd would have been touring with AC/DC anyway.

"Your place in the band for the moment does not exist, and will not exist until you address your addiction issues."

Rudd mumbled something indecipherable to that.

Judge Ingram noted Rudd had twice before been granted discharges. "And here you are gain, drawing from the same well, at 61 years of age."

It was clear he'd learned nothing from the court's previous "indulgences", the judge said.

Ingram said it was essential he treat Rudd the same as anyone else. Just the day before, he said, he'd jailed a man who'd threatened to beat up his wife. It would be remiss of him not to address the issue seriously.

But he said the best chance Rudd had of rehabilitating himself was to serve his sentence at home.

Outside court, Rudd was asked how he felt about the sentence. "Fucking ecstatic mate," he said, before adding: "Fuck off."

Phil Rudd's lawyer has revealed to the Bay of Plenty Times that he has lodged an appeal to this morning's sentencing.

Craig Tuck said Rudd was at his Tauranga home this afternoon, starting his home detention sentence.



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