Prosecutors drop charge against AC/DC's Phil Rudd

AC/DC Drummer Hit Man Charge Dropped

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- New Zealand authorities made an embarrassing about-face on Friday when prosecutors dropped a murder-for-hire charge against AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd, saying there was not enough evidence to proceed.

But the 60-year-old member of the popular Australian band still faces a serious charge of threatening to kill, which comes with a maximum prison term of seven years. He also faces charges of possessing methamphetamine and marijuana.

Police had initially accused Rudd of trying to arrange for a hit man to carry out two killings, and had charged him with attempting to procure murder, which comes with a maximum 10-year sentence. But when prosecutors took over the case, they quickly dropped the charge.

"The file was obtained today and reviewed," Tauranga Crown Solicitor Greg Hollister-Jones said in a statement Friday, adding he had "made the decision that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the charge of attempting to procure murder."

Rudd's lawyer Paul Mabey said the damage to his client had been incalculable and he was considering possible remedies.

"The charge alleging an attempt to procure murder should never have been laid," Mabey said in a statement, adding "Mr. Rudd has suffered unnecessary and extremely damaging publicity as a result of widespread and sensational reporting of a very serious allegation, which on any basis was never justified."

Mabey said Rudd would defend the other charges against him.

Bill Hodge, a law professor at the University of Auckland, said the events suggested police had overreached.

"Usually you'd expect police to lay a basic charge, a holding charge," he said. "Then, maybe when they've got more witnesses and evidence, they could go for a more complicated charge. I don't understand the rush."

Hodge said Rudd could have a good case for seeking financial damages if the case against him fell apart altogether, but he may have little recourse if convicted on the threatening to kill charge.

Police on Friday declined interview requests.

Fans noted Rudd's disheveled appearance and gaunt face in media images of his court appearance. Many Down Under have listened for decades to the straightforward hard rock of AC/DC, often affectionately called "Acca Dacca."

Rudd was released on bail Thursday pending a second court appearance later this month. He has yet to enter a plea.

AC/DC released a statement saying band members had "only become aware of Phil's arrest as the news was breaking."

"We have no further comment. Phil's absence will not affect the release of our new album `Rock or Bust' and upcoming tour next year."

"Rock or Bust" is due to be released on Dec. 2 and will be the band's first new studio album in six years. The band plans to promote it during a world tour next year.

Rudd and the other members of AC/DC were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.

"Featuring guitarist Angus Young as their visual symbol and musical firebrand, they grew from humble origins in Australia to become an arena-filling phenomenon with worldwide popularity. They did so without gimmickry, except for Angus's schoolboy uniform, which became mandatory stage attire," said the Hall of Fame's biography.

According to the biography, Rudd first joined AC/DC in 1974, the year after it was started. Other reports indicate he left the band in 1983 but rejoined again in 1994. The Bay of Plenty Times reported that Rudd first moved to New Zealand in 1983, during the period when he had left the band, and in 2011 bought a Tauranga restaurant he named Phil's Place.

Tauranga is a tranquil coastal city of 110,000. Its warm climate has made it popular with retirees, although it now has a fast-growing younger population too.

AC/DC's albums include "Highway to Hell," `'Back in Black," and "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap."

The U.S. military has used the band's music for martial purposes. In 2004, U.S. troops blasted AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" and other rock music full volume in Fallujah, Iraq, hoping to grate on the nerves of insurgents.

AC/DC had been one of the few acts that refused to allow its music to be released digitally on iTunes. It relented in late 2012. This year, the band announced that founding member Malcolm Young, brother of Angus, was leaving due to unspecified health reasons.

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Prosecutors drop charge against AC/DC's Phil Rudd
Former AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd stands in the dock as faces charges at the High Court in Tauranga, New Zealand on November 26, 2014. The 60-year-old Australian, who has lived in Tauranga for over 30 years, hit the headlines on November 6 when he appeared in court accused of attempting to hire a hitman to kill two people, as well as the charges he still faces. The more serious charge of attempting to procure murder that police laid was dropped the day after his first court appearance, Crown Solicitor Greg Hollister-Jones having decided there was insufficient evidence. AFP PHOTO / MARTY MELVILLE (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 26: AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd talks to members of the media after leaving Tauranga District Court after appearing in court after being charged with threatening to kill and possession of meth and marijuana at Tauranga District Court on November 26, 2014 in Tauranga, New Zealand. Phil Rudd was ACDC's drummer from 1975 to 1983. (Photo by Joel Ford/Getty Images)
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 26: AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd talks to members of the media after leaving Tauranga District Court after appearing in court after being charged with threatening to kill and possession of meth and marijuana at Tauranga District Court on November 26, 2014 in Tauranga, New Zealand. Phil Rudd was ACDC's drummer from 1975 to 1983. (Photo by Joel Ford/Getty Images)
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 26: AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd gestures to members of the media after leaving Tauranga District Court after appearing in court after being charged with threatening to kill and possession of meth and marijuana at Tauranga District Court on November 26, 2014 in Tauranga, New Zealand. Phil Rudd was ACDC's drummer from 1975 to 1983. (Photo by Joel Ford/Getty Images)
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 26: AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd leaves Tauranga District Court after appearing in court after being charged with threatening to kill and possession of meth and marijuana at Tauranga District Court on November 26, 2014 in Tauranga, New Zealand. Phil Rudd was ACDC's drummer from 1975 to 1983. (Photo by Joel Ford/Getty Images)
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 26: AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd talks to members of the media after leaving Tauranga District Court after appearing in court after being charged with threatening to kill and possession of meth and marijuana at Tauranga District Court on November 26, 2014 in Tauranga, New Zealand. Phil Rudd was ACDC's drummer from 1975 to 1983. (Photo by Joel Ford/Getty Images)
Former AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd hides behind a body guard as he leaves court after faces charges at the High Court in Tauranga, New Zealand on November 26, 2014. The 60-year-old Australian, who has lived in Tauranga for over 30 years, hit the headlines on November 6 when he appeared in court accused of attempting to hire a hitman to kill two people, as well as the charges he still faces. The more serious charge of attempting to procure murder that police laid was dropped the day after his first court appearance, Crown Solicitor Greg Hollister-Jones having decided there was insufficient evidence. AFP PHOTO / MARTY MELVILLE (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)
AC/DC rock group with drummer Phil Rudd in 1978
Drummer Phil Rudd of the Australian rock group AC/DC on August 24, 1977 at the Academy of Music in New York City.
November 7, 2008 - Toronto, Ont AC DC with drummer Phil Rudd play in front of 45,000 plus screaming fans at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario Canada as part of their 2008/09 Black Ice World Tour. Ray Miller / Southcreek EMI / Zuma Press
November 7, 2008 - Toronto, Ont AC DC plays in front of 45,000 plus screaming fans at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario Canada as part of their 2008/09 Black Ice World Tour. Ray Miller / Southcreek EMI / Zuma Press
July 12, 2011 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - K19745MR.AC/DC (BRIAN JOHNSON, PHIL RUDD, ANGUS YOUNG, MALCOLM YOUNG, C. WILLIAMS).Inducted ''Rockwalk''.Hollywood, CA. 2000(Credit Image: © Milan Ryba/Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com)
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 06: AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd leaves Tauranga District Court after being charged with attempting to procure murder at Tauranga District Court on November 6, 2014 in Tauranga, New Zealand. Phil Rudd was AC/DC's drummer from 1975 to 1983. (Photo by Joel Ford/Getty Images)
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 06: AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd leaves Tauranga District Court after being charged with attempting to procure murder at Tauranga District Court on November 6, 2014 in Tauranga, New Zealand. Phil Rudd was AC/DC's drummer from 1975 to 1983. (Photo by Joel Ford/Getty Images)
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 06: AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd leaves Tauranga District Court after being charged with attempting to procure murder at Tauranga District Court on November 6, 2014 in Tauranga, New Zealand. Phil Rudd was AC/DC's drummer from 1975 to 1983. (Photo by Joel Ford/Getty Images)
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 06: AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd leaves Tauranga District Court after being charged with attempting to procure murder at Tauranga District Court on November 6, 2014 in Tauranga, New Zealand. Phil Rudd was AC/DC's drummer from 1975 to 1983. (Photo by Joel Ford/Getty Images)
ROTTERDAM, HOLLAND - MARCH 13: Brian Johnson (L) and Angus Young of AC/DC performing on stage at Ahoy in Rotterdam, Holland on March 13 2009. (Photo by Paul Bergen/Redferns)
INGLEWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 21: AC/DC performs during the Ballbreaker tour at the Forum in Inglewood, California on February 21, 1996. (Photo by Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 01: (NEW ZEALAND NEWSPAPERS OUT) AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd (R) leaves Tauranga District Court following his conviction for cannabis possession on December 1, 2010 in Tauranga, New Zealand. Rudd, charged under his legal name of Phillip Witschke, was found in possession of 27g of the drug after a police search at his launch at the Tauranga Bridge Marina on October 7. The conviction could affect his ability to travel with AC/DC internationally in future. (Photo by The Sun/Getty Images)
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 01: (NEW ZEALAND NEWSPAPERS OUT) AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd leaves Tauranga District Court following his conviction for cannabis possession on December 1, 2010 in Tauranga, New Zealand. Rudd, charged under his legal name of Phillip Witschke, was found in possession of 27g of the drug after a police search at his launch at the Tauranga Bridge Marina on October 7. The conviction could affect his ability to travel with AC/DC internationally in future. (Photo by The Sun/Getty Images)
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 01: (NEW ZEALAND NEWSPAPERS OUT) AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd leaves Tauranga District Court following his conviction for cannabis possession on December 1, 2010 in Tauranga, New Zealand. Rudd, charged under his legal name of Phillip Witschke, was found in possession of 27g of the drug after a police search at his launch at the Tauranga Bridge Marina on October 7. The conviction could affect his ability to travel with AC/DC internationally in future. (Photo by The Sun/Getty Images)
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 01: (NEW ZEALAND NEWSPAPERS OUT) AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd leaves Tauranga District Court following his conviction for cannabis possession on December 1, 2010 in Tauranga, New Zealand. Rudd, charged under his legal name of Phillip Witschke, was found in possession of 27g of the drug after a police search at his launch at the Tauranga Bridge Marina on October 7. The conviction could affect his ability to travel with AC/DC internationally in future. (Photo by The Sun/Getty Images)
DERBY, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 11: Phil Rudd of AC/DC performs on stage on the first day of the Download Festival at Donington Park on June 11, 2010 in Derby, England. (Photo by Neil Lupin/Redferns)
SAN ANTONIO - DECEMBER 12: Drummer Phil Rudd of the Australian band AC/DC performs in concert at the AT&T Center on December 12, 2008 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Gary Miller/FilmMagic)
AC/DC's Malcolm Young, Phil Rudd, Angus Young, Cliff Williams and Brian Johnson with Justin Timberlake (center-right) ***Exclusive*** (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)
378457 13: Band members from left: Brian Johnson, Phil Rudd, Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Cliff Williams of the Australian rock band AC-DC pose September 15, 2000 at the Rock Walk handprint ceremony at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, Ca. (Photo /Newsmakers)
378457 12: Band members from left: Brian Johnson, Phil Rudd, Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Cliff Williams of the Australian rock band AC-DC pose September 15, 2000 at the Rock Walk handprint ceremony at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, Ca. (Photo /Newsmakers)
378457 11: Band members from left: Brian Johnson, Phil Rudd, Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Cliff Williams of the Australian rock band AC-DC pose September 15, 2000 at the Rock Walk handprint ceremony at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, Ca. (Photo /Newsmakers)
378457 10: Band members from left: Brian Johnson, Phil Rudd, Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Cliff Williams of the Australian rock band AC-DC at the Rock Walk handprint ceremony September 15, 2000 at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, Ca. (Photo /Newsmakers)
378457 09: Band members from left: Brian Johnson, Phil Rudd, Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Cliff Williams of the Australian rock band AC-DC pose September 15, 2000 at the Rock Walk handprint ceremony at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, Ca. (Photo /Newsmakers)
378457 07: Band member Phil Rudd of the Australian rock band AC-DC poses September 15, 2000 at the Rock Walk handprint ceremony at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, Ca. (Photo /Newsmakers)
378457 01: Members of the Australian rock band AC-DC pose for a photograph after the Rock Walk handprint ceremony September 15, 2000 at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, Ca. From left: Brian Johnson, Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams, Angus Young and Phil Rudd. (Photo / Newsmakers)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 15: Photo of AC DC and Phil RUDD and Malcolm YOUNG and Cliff WILLIAMS and Brian JOHNSON and Angus YOUNG and AC/DC; L-R: Brian Johnson, Malcolm Young, Angus Young, Cliff Williams, Phil Rudd, posed, studio, group shot at Rockwalk Induction (Photo by Robert Knight Archive/Redferns)
Heavy rock group AC/DC performing on tour in Europe, 1980. Left to right: rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, singer Brian Johnson, drummer Phil Rudd, guitarist Angus Young and bassist Cliff Williams. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
LONDON - 1st AUGUST: Australian rock band AC/DC posed in a studio in London in August 1979. Left to right: Malcolm Young, Bon Scott, Angus Young, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
LONDON - 1st AUGUST: Drummer Phil Rudd from Australian rock band AC/DC posed in a studio in London in August 1979. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
LONDON - 1st AUGUST: Drummer Phil Rudd from Australian rock band AC/DC posed in a studio in London in August 1979. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
LONDON - 1st AUGUST: Australian rock band AC/DC posed in a studio in London in August 1979. Left to right: Bon Scott, Malcolm Young, Angus Young, Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 01: (left to right) Bon Scott, Malcolm Young, Angus Young, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd of Australian rock band AC/DC pose in London, England in August 1979. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 01: (left to right) Bon Scott, Malcolm Young, Phil Rudd, Angus Young and Cliff Williams of Australian rock band AC/DC pose in London, England in August 1979. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 01: (left to right) Bon Scott, Malcolm Young, Phil Rudd, Angus Young and Cliff Williams of Australian rock band AC/DC pose in London, England in August 1979. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 01: (left to right) Malcolm Young, Bon Scott, Angus Young, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd of Australian rock band AC/DC pose in London, England in August 1979. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 01: (left to right) Bon Scott, Malcolm Young, Phil Rudd, Angus Young and Cliff Williams of Australian rock band AC/DC pose in London, England in August 1979. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 01: (left to right) Malcolm Young, Phil Rudd, Angus Young, Cliff Williams and Bon Scott of Australian rock band AC/DC pose in Camden, London in August 1979 . (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
Phil Rudd y Cliff Williams
Phil Rudd, en los cueros.
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