Phil Rudd, the beleaguered former AC/DC drummer who pleaded guilty to charges of threatening to kill and possession of marijuana and methamphetamine earlier this year, was sentenced to eight months of home detention by a New Zealand judge.
The judgment came down Thursday afternoon local time in a harsh admonition by Judge Thomas Ingram, who appeared to downplay Rudd’s nebulous role in AC/DC. “Queen replaced Freddie Mercury,” Ingram said, according to Stuff.co.nz. “AC/DC are still going on without you. Your place in the band for the moment does not exist, and will not exist until you address your addiction issues.
“The reality, Mr Rudd, is this. I consider you badly need help with your drug problem and I consider the best way to deal with that is to give you the sentence I’ve given you here,” Ingram added, according to the Bay of Plenty Times in New Zealand.
Rudd will be monitored 24 hours a day in his Tauranga, New Zealand home, with Ingram telling the drummer that he will be sent to prison should he violate the terms of his detention. “I stone cold guarantee that’s where you’ll end up,” Ingram said. “I’m not your headmaster; I’m not your father. I’m a judge.”
“I understand,” Rudd said repeatedly, according to Stuff. Rudd had faced a maximum of seven years in prison on the charges.
Rudd, whom Ingram called a “relatively fragile man who has felt bound to live the rock star lifestyle,” will face time in prison if caught with drugs or alcohol, according to Television New Zealand, and must also complete a rehabilitation program. “There is simply no place to hide,” Ingram said.
A representative for the band declined to comment, but Rudd’s lawyer, Craig Tuck, tells Rolling Stone that he has already filed an appeal on behalf of the drummer.
“We will be appealing the conviction and sentence as it was manifestly excessive,” Tuck says.
Thursday’s sentencing is the latest update in a case that began last November when Rudd was arrested for attempting to procure a murder, threatening to kill and drug charges. One day later, prosecutors dropped the murder procurement charge due to “insufficient evidence,” but continued prosecuting the other charges.
“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,” Rudd’s original lawyer Paul Mabey said. “The damage to Mr. Rudd is incalculable.” Mabey would eventually part ways with Rudd in February, stating only, “It’s just a professional decision that we have made.”
Rudd originally pleaded not guilty to all charges, but changed his plea to guilty in April. Tuck had unsuccessfully argued for Rudd’s discharge without conviction when facing Judge Ingram.
The details of the case painted Rudd as a musician unhappy with the release and reception of his 2014 solo album Head Job. The drummer asked that his former security guard-turned-personal assistant be “taken out” following the failure of the album, according to a summary of facts presented. The release of that album “didn’t go well,” which infuriated Rudd to the point where he fired much of his staff, including the assistant. On September 25th, Rudd phoned an unnamed 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.” Earlier reports stated that Rudd threatened both the personal assistant and the man’s young daughter, but a second threatening to kill charge was dismissed in April.
The drug charges stem from 91 grams of marijuana police found while searching Rudd’s property alongside methamphetamine Rudd had in his pockets.
In May, Rudd broke his silence in an interview with Australia’s A Current Affair. “I’ve seen the error of my ways,” he said. “Onward and upward from here. You make your own mistakes and it was a mistake of the charges. We all make mistakes.”
Amidst the whole arrest and trial, AC/DC had prepped and released their latest album, Rock or Bust. “Phil’s absence will not affect the release of our new album Rock or Bust and upcoming tour next year,” the band told Rolling Stone after the drummer’s arrest. “I want my job back, I want my reputation back and I’m gonna get it back,” Rudd said in December. “I’m gonna fucking take it back.”
Despite Rudd’s insistence that he was “fit and ready to go” on tour, the group enlisted Chris Slade, who played on AC/DC’s The Razors Edge, single “Big Gun” and early Nineties live albums, for both live shows and television appearances. The group kicked off this year’s Grammys with Slade behind the kit.
Rudd said he’d tried to get in contact with his bandmates, to no avail. “They haven’t called me,” he said. “I wrote them a letter and I tried to get in touch with [guitarist] Angus [Young] and no contact. I’m very disappointed, yeah. But that’s life.”
“I’ve seen him in better shape,” Young told Rolling Stone following Rudd’s arrest. “It was not the Phil we had known, after we had finished the last tour. He’d let himself go.” Young admitted that Rudd’s arrest was “a big blow to us,” but added, “We will definitely be out there. We are committed to this.”
Rudd became AC/DC’s drummer in 1975 and stayed with the band until 1983, moving to Tauranga after leaving the group. He rejoined AC/DC in 1994 and had been a permanent member ever since.
“This has just been a big ball of cheese, and all the rats are gathering and having a piece,” Rudd said of the charges in December. “That’s just life. But that’s not who I am. Everyone listens to the wrong people. They should listen to me. I’m a good guy.”