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WELLINGTON (Reuters) - A New Zealand prosecutor on Friday dropped a charge against AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd that he attempted to procure the murder of two people, but Rudd still faces charges of threatening to kill.
One day after Rudd was arrested and charged with attempting to procure murder, threatening to kill and possession of narcotics, a New Zealand government prosecutor said the most serious charge had been dropped because of a lack of evidence.
"There was insufficient evidence to proceed with the charge of attempting to procure murder," prosecuting lawyer Greg Hollister-Jones said in a statement on Friday.
Rudd's lawyer said police did not consult the prosecutor before laying the charge of attempting to procure the murder of two people in Tauranga, a city on New Zealand's North Island.
"The charge alleging an attempt to procure murder should never have been laid," Paul Mabey said.
Mabey said Rudd had suffered "incalculable" damage from unnecessary and damaging publicity arising from the arrest, and reporting of a serious allegation which was never justified".
He said the 60-year-old Rudd, who is on bail to reappear at the end of the month, would defend the threatening to kill charge, which has a maximum sentence of seven years in jail. Mabey said the drug charges were minor offences.
The Australian-born Rudd has lived in the seaside city, about 200 kms (125 miles) southeast of New Zealand's biggest city Auckland, since he was sacked from the band in 1983.
He rejoined AC/DC in 1994, but has remained in New Zealand, where he owns a restaurant.
He was convicted and fined for possessing cannabis in 2010.
AC/DC is due to officially launch their first album in more than five years - Rock or Bust - on Dec 2.
In a statement after Rudd's arrest the band said his absence would not affect the album's release or a planned tour next year.
Reporting by Gyles Beckford; Editing by Michael Perry