Murder-for-Hire Charge Dropped Against AC/DC's Phil Rudd

Main charge against drummer withdrawn for "insufficient evidence," but drugs and threatening-to-kill charges remain

Phil Rudd of AC/DC. One day after being charged in a murder-for-hire plot, the main charge has been withdrawn. Credit: James Croucher/AP

One day after AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd was arrested for allegedly attempting to procure the murders of two men, the main murder-for-hire charge has been dropped. Greg Hollister-Jones – the Crown Solicitor of Tauranga, New Zealand, where Rudd was arrested – made the decision to withdraw the charge due to "insufficient evidence." A press release from Hollister-Jones' office, which advises the Tauranga government on legal affairs and would have been prosecuting the drummer, said that it had informed Rudd's lawyers and police of his decision. The High Court will not be trying Rudd on this charge, though a spokesperson for the Tauranga Crown Solicitor's office confirmed to Rolling Stone that Rudd still faces charges of threatening to kill and possession of methamphetamine and cannabis.

Rudd's lawyer Paul Mabey QC was not immediately available for comment, but in a statement published by The New Zealand Herald, he blamed police for charging the drummer in what he considered a hasty manner. "The charge alleging an Attempt to Procure Murder should never have been laid," Mabey wrote. "The Crown Solicitor's opinion was not sought. The charge is now withdrawn – within 24 hours of Mr. Rudd's first appearance in Court. Mr. Rudd has suffered unnecessary and extremely damaging publicity as a result of widespread and sensational reporting of a very serious allegation, which on any basis was never justified. The damage to Mr. Rudd is incalculable. Questions arise as to the degree of care taken by those responsible for arresting and charging him with Attempting to Procure Murder."

Rudd was facing up to 10 years in prison had he been found guilty of the charge.

A representative for AC/DC was not immediately available for comment.

Rudd was arrested Thursday morning for allegedly trying to have two as-yet-unidentified men killed in late September. He was also charged with possession of methamphetamine and cannabis, following a raid on his home, as well as threatening to kill. The drummer appeared in court Thursday afternoon and was released on bail.

Mabey said that Rudd intends to defend himself against these charges and that the ones for "personal possession of drugs are minor." Still, Rudd could still face up to seven years in prison on the charge of threatening to kill.

The 60-year-old was a member of AC/DC from 1975 through 1983 and rejoined the group permanently in 1994. AC/DC have been prepping for the release of their upcoming record, Rock or Bust, and had announced the intention of launching a world tour in 2015. The group released a statement about Rudd's arrest on Thursday, telling Rolling Stone, "Phil's absence will not affect the release of our new album Rock or Bust and upcoming tour next year," it said.

Rock or Bust is the band's first album in six years and its first ever without founding rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, who bowed out of the band earlier this year due to dementia. His nephew, Stevie Young, played on the record in his stead. The band debuted the first song off the album, "Play Ball," in October.