Michael Stipe Takes Stand In Peter Buck's Air Rage Trial

R.E.M. singer calls his bandmate the definition of a 'Southern gentleman.'

Two days after U2 singer Bono defended Peter Buck at his London air rage trial, the guitarist's R.E.M. bandmates Michael Stipe and Mike Mills, his manager and his wife took the witness stand to support their friend.

Stipe, Mills, longtime R.E.M. manager Bertis Downs and Stephanie Buck were powerful character witnesses, praising Buck for his kindness and telling the court that Buck told them he blacked out on a flight from Seattle to London last April after washing a sleeping pill down with a glass of wine.

Buck gave similar testimony last week, but did not have an answer when prosecutors asked why he failed to tell authorities about the pill when he was arrested at Heathrow Airport for assaulting two of the cabin crew, damaging British Airways property and being drunk on the airplane.

At Isleworth Crown Court Wednesday (March 27), Stipe said Buck is not a person who is rude to anyone.

"In the American South, there is what is called a Southern gentleman, and Peter is my definition of such," Stipe said, according to reports. "He is someone who is considerate of all people, gentle and polite. Someone that follows the golden rule: you treat them as you would want to be treated no matter who they are. That is why this whole thing to me is absurd. It just seems so bizarre."

Stipe said he has seen Buck drinking before but that Buck is not an alcoholic. He said he asked Buck after the arrest what prompted the alleged behavior and Buck "said he had taken a pill and blacked out."

Mills, the bassist in R.E.M., said Buck was not his normal self when he saw him in his hotel suite hours after being released by police.

"He was very shaken, he was very depressed," Mills said. "He said he was not really sure what happened."

Stephanie Buck said when she first heard about the allegations against her husband, they did not sound like Peter at all.

"I would not be married to him if he was anything like that," she told the jury. "Peter is a very gentle man. He is shy, he is very self-effacing."

Buck, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, had his first trial called off after one day in December (see "R.E.M.'s Buck To Be Retried For Air Rage Incident"). In the retrial, which began March 18, prosecutors have alleged that the guitarist drank about 15 glasses of wine in the first three hours of the flight before proceeding to mistake a hostess trolley for a CD player, claim a stranger was his wife and cover crew members with yogurt.

Bono said Monday that Buck "is famously known for being a peaceable person" and testified he has never seen him drunk (see "Bono At Peter Buck's Trial: 'This Is Ridiculous' ").

Buck was flying overseas April 20 on his way to an R.E.M. performance at the South Africa Freedom Day Concert in London's Trafalgar Square on April 29. The other members of R.E.M. were on a different flight.

The trial was adjourned for the Easter holiday and will resume April 3.