WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – New Zealand authorities made an embarrassing about-face on Friday when prosecutors dropped a murder-for-hire charge against AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd, saying there was not enough evidence to proceed.
But the 60-year-old member of the popular Australian band still faces a serious charge of threatening to kill, which comes with a maximum prison term of seven years.
He also faces charges of possessing methamphetamine and marijuana.
Police had initially accused Rudd of trying to arrange for a hit man to carry out two killings, and had charged him with attempting to procure murder, which comes with a maximum 10-year sentence. But when prosecutors took over the case, they quickly dropped the charge.
“The file was obtained today and reviewed,” Tauranga Crown Solicitor Greg Hollister-Jones said in a statement Friday, adding he had “made the decision that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the charge of attempting to procure murder.”
Rudd’s lawyer, Paul Mabey, said the damage to his client had been incalculable and he was considering possible remedies.
“The charge alleging an attempt to procure murder should never have been laid,” Mabey said in a statement, adding, “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.”