Keith Richards Guilty: 'I'm Just Relieved'

Three-day trial ends with Richards' conviction of cocaine possession, but no jail time

February 24, 1977
Rolling Stones Keith Richards
Keith Richards in New York in September, 1977.
Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

London — Keith Richards was convicted January 11th of cocaine possession by the Aylesbury Crown Court, 40 miles northwest of London. The 33-year-old Rolling Stones guitarist was fined £750 ($1290) and assessed another £250 in court fees. Richards, who was convicted in 1973 of drug possession, was warned by Judge Lawrence Verney that another conviction would lead to a jail sentence.

The drug possession charges, to which Richards had pleaded not guilty, stemmed from a car accident and subsequent drug bust last May. The prosecution contended in the trial that police had found about 130 milligrams of cocaine in a small tube attached to a silver chain under a car seat immediately after the accident in which Richards overturned his Bentley. The prosecution also contended that Richards had a small amount of LSD in his coat pocket, a charge of which he was found not guilty.

In the trial, the prosecution's case rested on a photograph of Richards wearing a chain and tube identical to the one found in his car. Richards stated that he did not own the chain and had never seen it before; he added that the LSD could have been placed in his pocket by a fan. "We all wear each other's stage clothes," said Richard. "It could belong to anyone. I don't even know what it is." Judge Verney, in deciding against a jail term, added that Richards had had every chance to dump the evidence if he had known it was in his possession, noting, "There is some support for Richards' contention that he knew nothing."

"It's basically a question of security," said Richards after the trial, "just making sure you know what people are giving you."

There is a strong possibility that the drug conviction will seriously affect Richards' ability to tour abroad with the Stones, a point stressed by his defense during the trial. Richards, who is reportedly considering an appeal, commented that "It's too early to say how it will affect us. I'm just relieved it's all over. Maybe I'll get a song out of it."

"We have no plans to perform in the United States this year," added Mick Jagger, who had attended the three-day trial. Asked if he thought it would affect future touring plans, he responded, "It was such a small thing, maybe they'll be lenient."

After the trial had ended, the judge, at the request of the prosecution, agreed to have the silver chain and tube destroyed. "It ain't mine," commented Richards, "so they can do what they like with it."

This is a story from the February 24, 1977 issue of Rolling Stone.

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