R.E.M guitarist Peter Buck was accused today (April 3) of lying to protect his career after an alleged drunken rampage on a trans-Atlantic flight last April.

R.E.M guitarist Peter Buck was accused today (April 3) of lying to protect his career after an alleged drunken rampage on a trans-Atlantic flight last April. At the musician's "air-rage" trial in London, prosecutor David Bate said Buck "has a powerful reason to mislead in this case. He has a powerful motive to change his story because he realizes it will reflect badly upon him and the group of which he is so justifiably proud."

Buck, who denies charges of assault, being drunk on an airplane, and damaging British Airways crockery, says he suffered a bad reaction to the combination of a sleeping pill and red wine and has no memory of his alleged actions. His defense lawyers also claim that witnesses may have wrongly identified Buck as the culprit in the dim cabin light during the Seattle-to-London flight last April.

Prosecutors say Buck, 45, acted like a "drunken lout" after consuming 15 glasses of wine on the flight. They say he overturned a breakfast trolley, mistook a hostess trolley for a CD player, claimed a stranger sitting on the plane was his wife, and tussled with crew members, covering them with yogurt. Crew members have testified they pulled Buck away from an exit door after he announced he was "going home" mid-flight.

Bate said Buck had been "having a party with the boys at British Airways' expense." But defense attorney Richard Ferguson said the prosecution case was "riddled with contradiction and blighted by confusion."

He said Buck's erratic behavior had been triggered by the sleeping pill Ambien -- known as Stilnox in Europe -- and several glasses of red wine. Buck did not behave recklessly or with criminal intent, he said.

Character witnesses, including R.E.M. band mates Michael Stipe and Mike Mills and U2 frontman Bono, have testified that Buck is a gentle family man who does not abuse alcohol or drugs.

"We hope that when he awakens from this nightmare it will not be to face the heavy bludgeon of the law but to have restored to him his family, his freedom, and his peace of mind," Ferguson said. The trial continues tomorrow.


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