In Britain's hacking case, former executive is acquitted but former editor is convicted

LONDON — Andy Coulson, a former editor for media mogul Rupert Murdoch and spin doctor for British Prime Minister David Cameron, was found guilty Tuesday of conspiring to hack phones in one of the biggest media trials in British history. Rebekah Brooks, Coulson's co-defendant and former boss, was cleared of all charges.

It was a dramatic end to an eight-month trial — one of the longest and most expensive in British history — that stemmed from revelations that reporters at Murdoch's News of the World tabloid illegally intercepted the voice mails of thousands of Britons. The scandal, which reached a fever pitch in 2011, rocked the British establishment, revealing the cozy relationship between the press, police and politicians.

The fall of Coulson, 46, who was found guilty of plotting to intercept voice mails while he was editor at the News of the World, forced an apology from Cameron, who is facing a national election in less than a year and whose judgment in hiring Coulson has come under renewed scrutiny.

Brooks, 46, the former head of News International, Murdoch's British newspaper arm, was cleared of all charges. Among the allegations against her were conspiracy to hack phones and paying public officials.

When the verdicts were read out at the Old Bailey court in central London, Coulson looked on impassively while an emotional Brooks appeared to mouth the words "thank you."

At the height of the scandal in 2011, Cameron promised to offer a "profound" apology for hiring Coulson if the former aide was found complicit in phone hacking. The prime minister kept that pledge Tuesday.

Soon after the hacking revelations in 2011, Murdoch closed the 168-year-old paper.

Coulson left the News of the World in 2007 after the paper's royal editor was jailed for phone hacking, saying that he took responsibility but denying any wrongdoing himself. Cameron hired him a few months later.

Other defendants — including Brooks' husband, Charlie Brooks; her former secretary, Cheryl Carter; and Mark Hanna, the former head of security for News International — were acquitted on the charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Stuart Kuttner, a former managing editor of the News of the World, was cleared of conspiracy to hack phones.

Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie Brooks leave the Central Criminal Court in London on Tuesday after being acquitted in one of the longest and most expensive trials in British history.

Associated Press

Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie Brooks leave the Central Criminal Court in London on Tuesday after being acquitted in one of the longest and most expensive trials in British history.

In Britain's hacking case, former executive is acquitted but former editor is convicted 06/25/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 12:38am]

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