Altamont Death: Angel Not Guilty

After 17 days of testimony, 22-year-old Alan Passaro found not guilty in the stabbing death of 18-year-old Meredith Hunter

The Rolling Stones onstage at The Altamont Speedway in Livermore, California on December 6, 1969.
Robert Altman/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
February 18, 1971

BERKELEY — The murder trial stemming from an incident during the Rolling Stones' Altamont concert 13 months ago ended January 19th when the jury declared Hell's Angel Alan Passaro "not guilty" in the stabbing death of 18-year old Meredith Hunter.

Passaro, 22, threw back his head and let out a whoop as the verdict was read. The eight-man, four-woman jury deliberated 12 1/2 hours following 17 days of testimony.

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Passaro, who had been a member of the Angels for four months at the time of the concert, was arrested and charged with murder after being identified as a suspect from film footage shot by Albert and David Maysles at the concert. The film clip, from Gimme Shelter, the Maysles' documentary of the Stones' tour, was also run many times during the course of the trial.

During his testimony, Passaro said he had acted in what he believed to be self-defense. Other witnesses testified that Hunter had harassed members of the Angels – who had been hired to "guard" the stage – and had allegedly drawn a gun after being shoved around by several Angels.

Passaro testified that he had "stabbed at" Hunter, but said he wasn't sure if his six-inch knife blade had penetrated the Berkeley youth's body.

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The prosecution could round up only one witness from the multitudes near the stabbing who would testify against Passaro. Paul Cox, 18, nervously told the court that he had seen Passaro stab Hunter twice (the autopsy revealed that Hunter had been stabbed five times).

Immediately after the trial, Passaro was returned to jail. He is currently serving a two-to-10-year sentence for possession of marijuana. His attorney, George G. Walker, told the press that the verdict "reaffirms my belief in the jury system."

This story is from the February 18th, 1971 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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