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Keith Richards Meets the Mounties and Faces the Music

Page 5 of 8

Day 12, March 7th, is Keith's day in court -- likely all that will happen, I am assured, is that he will appear briefly at old City Hall and his case will be remanded to a later hearing. The morning papers, as Wasserman points out when he calls at 6 a.m., are full of Margaret Trudeau. Wasserman says he just called to tell me that I myself made two of the papers -- the Globe and Mail said I was "anguished"; the Sun said I broke the ban on American journalists.

At noon, CHUM announces that Keith will appear at old City Hall at 2 p.m. I get there at one to find the imposing granite structure flooded with young people, hundreds of them, waiting for Keith.

Wasserman had promised the press that Keith would arrive at the front door and he does. A bit late (at 1:30, Anita had to borrow Bill Carter's razor for Keith), he pulls up in a station wagon shortly after two. He is wearing a black velvet suit, and with his head up and his white scarf flying, he marches up the steps. The people cheer him -- except for two. An unidentified London photographer grabs his hair and says, "Deport the limey." A willowy blond woman who identifies herself only as "Bonnie" screams "evil cocksucker" at him and follows him inside, still screaming. The hearing is immediately closed to keep out the mob.

His heroin charge hearing is set for March 14th, but in a private session in the judge's chambers, Keith and attorneys Carter and Clayton Powell (a former Crown prosecutor here) are informed of a second charge. The Mounties claim that during the initial raid they had seized a second substance and lab tests had proven that it was 1/5 ounce of cocaine. Keith is privately told to appear in court the next day, Tuesday.

I find out that the federal prosecutor, David Scott, is planning to ask for revocation of bail and to move that Keith be jailed immediately. The Stones camp panics. Meetings are held all night. Peter Rudge is now a raw nerve. Strategy is finally agreed upon: the only way to keep Keith out of jail is to ask that bail be substantially increased, since the Mounties' beef is that a Rolling Stone got busted by them and essentially was released without bail.

Keith's court appearance the next day is an official secret. He is listed on no dockets and every official I call denies that he will appear.

The Stones' defense team decides that $25,000 in cash should be offered in exchange for Keith's body.

Day 13, Tuesday the 8th. I have breakfast with Rudge, Carter and Wasserman in the hotel's Poseidon restaurant, which has become the Stones' war room. They are all chain-smoking, including Carter, who doesn't smoke. Rudge pleads with me to get the story out that Keith Richards, the epitome of rock & roll, cannot be jailed in Toronto, that it will mean the end of Keith and the Rolling Stones and rock & roll.

I arrive an hour early at Provincial Courtroom 26, where Keith's case is scheduled to be heard. I look at the docket: no Keith Richards. There are 32 drug cases (half of them for intent to traffic) scheduled for Judge Vincent McEwan. McEwan's tough reputation is contradicted by his pink-faced, balding and bifocaled appearance.

The first afternoon case confirms McEwan's reputation: a 17-year-old kid gets 18 months probation and a criminal record for supposedly possessing eight grams of green marijuana leaves that the RCMP had watched him grow in a public park. The charge: intent to traffic.

At 2:20 p.m. Keith enters, escorted by a Toronto cop.

Prosecutor Scott, who once worked for defense counsel Powell, opens by complaining about the low bail. Keith stands in the prisoner's box, his hands folded before him, head bowed.

Just as the Crown is swearing in RCMP officer Bill Seward (one of the Mounties who busted Keith), Clayton Powell enters a motion to prohibit publication of the court proceedings -- routine in Canada. The judge agrees. And then Powell -- looking over his shoulder toward me -- enters a second motion: since "at least one reporter from an American magazine is here and is not subject to your order not to publish," any testimony entered here today could be prejudicial to Mr. Richard. The judge agrees, so the Mountie cannot testify about the circumstances of the bust, which testimony the Stones defense team does not want entered into court. I realize that I've been used.

Powell then submits that since the Crown seems worried about the low bail, the Stones are ready to hand over $25,000 in cash as good faith bail. The judge agrees and at 2:50 p.m. Keith has his passport back and is out on bail. Powell holds up the transmitter, saying that the Mountie who lost it can have it back.

Downstairs at the bail office, as Carter counts out $25,000, Rudge & Co. wink at me as though I had been the key witness.

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