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AC/DC Drummer Phil Rudd Pleads Guilty to Murder Threats

It would appear that in the midst of their comeback tour, Aussie rock icons AC/DC are experiencing another personnel change.

Remember last November when their drummer, Phil Rudd, was arrested in New Zealand on murder-for-hire charges, then the charges were dropped for lack of evidence? As is usually the case, that wasn’t all there was to the story. There were other charges to be addressed, including drug possession and threatening to kill—and to those charges, Phil Rudd entered a guilty plea in court on Tuesday.

As the New Zealand Herald reports, more details emerged during Tuesday’s hearing as to what allegedly happened. The beef Rudd had was against a former employee—a personal assistant who had been part of a staff purge after the botched release of Rudd’s solo album Head Job. Back in September, Rudd made a series of angry phone calls, including at least one to the personal assistant in which he apparently directly threatened to kill him. The day prior, he had called another associate to say he wanted the assistant “taken out,” and called back two hours later to offer money and gifts—hence, the charge of attempting to procure murder, which was dropped because the offer of gifts and money could not be effectively tied to the earlier phone call. The drug charges emerged from a raid on Rudd’s home in November.

Rudd had initially said he would plead “not guilty” to all remaining counts, but apparently changed his mind. The guilty plea applies to one charge of threatening to kill, as well as possession of methamphetamine and cannabis. A second charge of threatening (allegedly against the former employee’s daughter) was dropped at the hearing.

Rudd is scheduled to be sentenced June 26, but even with his guilty plea, the defense is not yet finished. In accordance with New Zealand law, Rudd’s lawyer says he plans to contest the conviction at the sentencing hearing, claiming the basis for the charge was nothing more than an “angry phone call.” If the judge agrees, the threatening to kill charge could be dropped.

Assuming the sentencing will go forward as scheduled, Rudd could spend 7 years in prison on the threatening-to-kill charge alone. This would mark the second time in a year that AC/DC have presumably lost a permanent member of their roster. Last fall, the band announced that founding guitarist Malcolm Young could no longer continue with AC/DC due to declining health (which the family later confirmed as dementia), and that Stevie Young, Malcolm’s nephew, would replace him.

AC/DC is slated to kick off their “Rock or Bust” world tour next month. In the midst of Rudd’s legal troubles, the band plans to have Chris Slade sitting in on the drums, although they have not stated whether the roster change would be permanent. Earlier this month, they played two shows at Coachella, their first live shows in six years.

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About the Author


Tim Ferrar's interest in pop and rock started as a child, listening to Top-40 radio for hours on end while playing air guitar in his bedroom. Eventually air guitar led to electric guitar, and Tim began playing in bands and writing his own songs. With an admitted weakness for "a great hook or a great guitar riff," Tim's musical tastes are broad and varied, ranging from Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga on the pop side to Bon Jovi and Foo Fighters on the rock side- making him the ideal guy to cover our Rock and Pop categories. By day, Tim is a mild-mannered accountant in Chicago. By night, he rocks out on electric guitar in a cover band in various clubs around town- much to the surprise of some of his clients.

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