AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd pleaded guilty to drug charges and threatening to kill a former assistant at a hearing Tuesday in New Zealand's Tauranga District Court. Rudd will be sentenced on June 26th. However, his lawyer Craig Tuck later stated that he'd argue for Rudd's discharge without conviction when facing the judge at the sentencing phase, as allowed under New Zealand law, the New Zealand Herald reports. At a December hearing, Rudd initially told the court he would plead not guilty on all counts.
The drummer asked that his former security guard-turned-personal assistant be "taken out" following the failure of Rudd's solo album Head Job, according to a summary of facts presented. The release of that album "didn't go well," which infuriated Rudd so much that he fired much of his staff, including the assistant. On September 25th, Rudd phoned an unnamed Australian associate and asked if they would murder his former assistant in exchange for $200,000, a car, a motorbike or a house.
The following day, Rudd made several threatening phone calls to his former assistant, culminating in one call where the drummer stated, "I'm going to come over and kill you." It's unclear what happened after Rudd made those phone calls, but the victim told authorities that he was "fearful of his safety." Earlier reports stated that Rudd threatened both the personal assistant and the man's young daughter, but the second threatening to kill charge was dismissed at Tuesday's hearing.
A warrant for Rudd's New Zealand property wasn't issued until early November, when a search uncovered 91 grams of marijuana stashed throughout the house in addition to the methamphetamine that Rudd had in his pockets. Although Rudd was initially arrested on a murder-for-hire charge, that was immediately dismissed due to lack of evidence.
Despite the guilty plea, Rudd's lawyer Tuck argued outside of court that the prosecution's entire case stemmed from an unwarranted police search warrant. "This matter essentially revolved around an angry phone call, that was it. There was a complaint to the police," Tuck said. "The apparatus of the police then turned up with a search warrant based on cannabis for own use situation."
The guilty plea is the latest unexpected turn in the case against Rudd, whose AC/DC bandmates performed their first shows in six years at Coachella. In December, while out on bail, Rudd got into a "fracas" with a trial witness and his own bodyguard after a "chance meeting" with the witness at a local coffee shop. In February, Rudd's trial was temporarily delayed after his lawyer quit. "It's just a professional decision that we have made," Attorney Paul Mabey, QC said.
The drummer remains remanded on bail until his June sentencing.