Buck Cleared in Air Rage Trial

Guitarist found not guilty of assault, drunkenness on flight

April 5, 2002 12:00 AM ET

A London jury found R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck not guilty of various charges stemming from an alleged air rage incident a year ago.

Buck was charged with drunkenness on an aircraft, damaging airline property and assaulting two crew members on the British Airways flight. The guitarist was accused of drinking fifteen glasses of wine last April while en route from Seattle to London where R.E.M. was to perform at Nelson Mandela's Freedom Day Concert. The trial included testimony from British Airways crew member Holly Ward, who claimed that Buck became unruly after the crew refused him further alcohol.

Late last month, Buck testified that he had no memory of the incident, claiming that he had taken a sleeping pill with a glass of wine early in the flight and woke up in a detainment cell in London's Heathrow Airport. "To me, it was just incomprehensible," he said. "I have never been in trouble before . . . I will go miles away to avoid confrontation. I really don't like it."

The three-week trial also included character witness testimony from U2 singer Bono, who claimed he'd never seen Buck drunk in the time he'd known him, and R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe, who called Buck a "Southern gentleman."

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