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Mick Jagger's Triumph in Court

Singer successfully fends off Altamont ruling — for now

Mick Jagger at a press conference circa 1975.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
September 25, 1975

Oakland — Mick Jagger spent a day in court on behalf of the Rolling Stones and managed to fend off, at least for now, a $690,000 judgment against the Stones stemming from the Altamont concert of December 1969.

The $690,000 bill had been standing since June 1974. A group of 14 ranchers had sued the Stones for $900,000, claiming property damages by some of the 300,000 persons who attended the free concert at the Altamont racetrack. The ranchers, who said their own property was trampled and overrun, were awarded the $690,000 by default after the Stones failed to respond to the suit, originally filed in February 1970.

The band's attorneys then filed a motion asking that the default judgment be set aside to open the way to a full trial.

Jagger, 32, testifying in California Superior Court at the Alameda County Courthouse August 18th, said he was never served with a summons for the case and that it was months after the judgment that he first learned of it.

"I thought it was a bad joke when I got this strange phone call from an attorney last December about the judgment," he said. Jagger seemed nervous at times on the witness stand in the open courtroom. Dressed conservatively in blue sport coat, black slacks and white loafers, he occasionally bit his lip and chewed at his fingernails.

Jagger's contention of ignorance of the suit was challenged by attorney Robert Hannon, representing the ranchers. Hannon produced a process server who told of an incident aboard the Stones' airplane at San Francisco Airport June 9th, 1972.

Vivian Manuel, a former department store security guard, said she served Jagger and that he shouted, "I have not been served! I don't have the papers!" and began beating her on the back. She said she was hustled off the plane and the Stones threw the papers out of the plane and onto the runway.

Jagger, however, said he had been told that evening that the woman was a "frantic" autograph hound and had followed the Stones from their concert at Winterland Auditorium to the airport. "She was led through the plane and asked me if I was Mick Jagger. When I said I was, she said she was serving me under the laws of the State of California and threw a bundle of papers at me, striking me on the chest . . . I reacted quickly. I slapped her and was immediately sorry. The lady was led off the plane, spilling papers down the aisle and all the way out onto the runway."

Jagger said he looked at some of the papers and "saw they dealt with legal matters, but I didn't know which case." A half-dozen personal injury suits, all from Altamont, were then pending. This particular case, Jagger said, "could affect my reputation throughout the world. People will tend to think I'm part of a group that owes nearly $700,000."

Four days later, Judge Robert Kroninger ruled for "defendant Jagger and certain other named individuals purportedly constituting 'The Rolling Stones,'"citing insufficient "proof of service" of the summons. He gave the group and its attorneys 30 days to set a trial in motion.

This is a story from the September 25, 1975 issue of Rolling Stone.

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

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