SYDNEY (AP) — A New Zealand judge sentenced AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd to eight months of home detention on Thursday after the musician pleaded guilty to threatening to kill a man who used to work for him, along with possession of methamphetamine and marijuana.
The 61-year-old Australian-born drummer had faced up to seven years in prison on the threatening to kill charge, but his lawyer had argued for the conviction to be set aside.
During the hearing, Tauranga District Court Judge Thomas Ingram said Rudd had a limited criminal history and posed a low risk of reoffending, Radio New Zealand reported. But Ingram said Rudd had been found with a substantial amount of drugs. And the judge rejected an argument from Rudd's lawyer that the death threat boiled down to one angry phone call.
Rudd has been out on bail since pleading guilty to the charges in April, when he acknowledged in a court summary of facts that he'd offered large amounts of cash, vehicles and a house to an associate after asking him to have the victim "taken out." He also acknowledged that he'd directly said to the victim he was going to kill him.
Prosecutors had also originally charged Rudd with murder-for-hire, but later dropped it, citing lack of evidence.
Rudd did not comment on the sentence as he left the courthouse, simply telling reporters to "get a (expletive) job" and batting away a microphone as he got into a waiting car.
Rudd's lawyer, Craig Tuck, later said in an email that an appeal had been filed.
According to the court summary, the dispute began in August when Rudd threw a party at his marina restaurant, Phil's Place, to celebrate the launch of his solo album, "Head Job." But Rudd grew angry that security wasn't tight enough, and felt the launch hadn't gone well. He subsequently fired several employees, including the victim, whose name has been suppressed by the court.
About four weeks later, Rudd called an associate and told him he wanted the victim "taken out," according to the court summary. When asked to clarify, Rudd said he wanted the victim "taken care of."
In another call, according to the court summary, Rudd offered the associate "$200,000, a motorbike, one of his cars or a house," which the associate took to mean as payment "for carrying out his earlier request." Two hundred thousand New Zealand dollars is equivalent to about US$133,000. The morning after calling his associate, Rudd called the victim directly, saying "I'm going to come over and kill you."
Police found marijuana and methamphetamine in several parts of Rudd's home during a search of the house, the court summary said. They also found methamphetamine in his pocket.
Rudd's lawyer had asked for a discharge without conviction in the case. New Zealand law gives a judge the discretion not to enter a conviction even after a defendant has pleaded guilty. Judges can do this if they think the consequences of a conviction outweigh the seriousness of the crime, a move which can allow a defendant to keep a clean record.
It's unclear whether Rudd has a future with the Australian rock band he's been part of on-and-off for almost four decades. The band is currently using Welsh drummer Chris Slade for its "Rock or Bust" album tour, but hasn't said if that's a long-term arrangement.