Keith Richards Toronto trial, 1978
*All texts taken from Barbara Charone’s book “Keith Richards“, first Keith biography ever published (Futura Books, 1979)
Toronto, 22 October 1978
During the afternoon Richards flies by private plane to Canada accompanied by an American lawyer. Trying to relax at the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville, situated in a different part of the city than the infamous Harbour Castle Hotel, Richards tries not to worry about tomorrow’s trial. He doesn’t take any telephone calls in order to watch Sunset Boulevard on television. The previous week ex-Sex Pistol Sid Vicious has allegedly killed his girlfriend at New York’s Chelsea Hotel. Richards is dismayed but hardly surprised that Vicious could receive a considerably lighter sentence if convicted for murder than for drug offences. ‘Not only is murder considered a lesser crime but in another country they couldn’t be extradited but they could for what I’ve been charged with’, he says before going off to watch Sunset Boulevard. ‘To think someone couldn’t be extradited for mass murder, Ridiculous? You tell me”.
Toronto, 23 October 1978
Keith Richards wears a three-piece rust-coloured suit to court replete with shirt and tie. Ironically every story covering the first day’s events mentions this suit, as if Richards was expected to arrive wearing pyjamas or something equally absurd. That morning Sid Vicious has slit his wrists in a suicide attempt. ‘He’s trying to steal my headlines’, Richards jests. The judge’s assistant is from Dartford. After Richards’ lawyer depicts reasons for his drug dependency and proof of his healthy status, the court is adjourned for one day. Then the judge will pass sentence. This is not a jury trial.
Richards returns to the hotel in the afternoon, frustrated that the whole episode is not yet over. Protected by a large bulky security man standing guard outside, Richards naps.
Although the band wanted to be by his side Richards declined such offers. Even Jagger was denied the pleasure of attending. This one major instance where the last thing Richards wanted was attention. He maintained a very low profile, going outside his hotel room only for court appearances.
The television sound is turned down low to allow for the countless cassettes that go everywhere with Richards in the large plastic orange bag that once housed Marlon’s toys. Richards makes the front page of Toronto Star once again. He’s hoping this will be the last occasion.
During the day when the subject of song lyrics concerning drugs is broached, Richards states that Jagger writes all the words. ‘I’ll get you for that’, Jagger jokes, ringing from London that evening. Throughout the night Richards makes continuous jail jokes to relieve the seriousness of the trial.
(Ref. keith richards toronto 1978)
Toronto, 24 October 1978
The lighthearted atmosphere of the previous evening has now been replaced by the grey foreboding weather outside. Depression meshes well with the phony hotel room air. The lawyer calls to see if Richards is ready, the press agent arrives for coffee. Pretty son the front desk says the car is waiting downstairs.
Keith Richards sits on the sofa in the lounge wearing shades and the same suit. Despite the mirrored glasses preventing a close inspection of his eyes, it is obvious he is a worried man. An aura of doom uncomfortably permeates the room. This is heightened when Richards takes his prized gold Cartier lighter out of his pocket, leaving it behind with some cherished jewellery. ‘I don’t want them to get anything’, he says pessimistically.
By 12.30 it is all over. Unbelievably Keith Richards is a free man, much to the satisfaction of the band, his family and fans everywhere. Although the prosecution pressed for a six t o twelve-month jail sentence the judge thought this or a similar fine was not appropriate. He ordered Richards to play at a charity concert on behalf of the blind within the next six months. He was also ordered to continue his treatment in New York with doctors to prevent returning to heroin. And he had to meet with his probation officer.
Wearing a wide smile and a look of exhausted relief, Keith Richards opened a bottle of champagne. A press conference was set for 5.30. No one could believe the extraordinarily unusual sentence. Richards talks to the band, his mother and Anita. He tells them all ‘I wasn’t worried in the slightest’.
(Ref. keith richards toronto 1978)
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