UPDATES WITH NEW INFORMATION: A 130-day trial highlighted by testimony as lurid as the tabloid headlines at its center ended today with a split decision for two of media mogul Rupert Murdoch‘s most trusted consiglieres. Rebekah Brooks, the flame-haired former head of Murdoch’s U.K. print operations, was found not guilty on five charges related to the notorious telephone-hacking scandal that resulted in the 2011 shuttering of the News Of The World scandal sheet. The official jury findings were not guilty on one count of conspiracy to hack voicemails, two counts of conspiracy to pay public officials and two counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice
Brooks’ successor, bespectacled tabloid editor Andy Coulson, the former communications chief to Prime Minister David Cameron, may face prison time, having been found guilty of conspiring to hack phones while he ran the News Of The World. The jury is still considering charges of misconduct in public office against Coulson and former News of the World royals editor Clive Goodman.
Coulson, a former lover of Brooks’s, was the only one among seven on trial found guilty of conspiracy to intercept mobile phone calls and messages. The Cameron connection will undoubtedly exacerbate reaction to the decision, as the verdicts reverberate through UK and U.S. political and media centers.
News UK, formerly known as News International and part of Murdoch’s News Corp, said in a statement: “We said long ago, and repeat today, that wrongdoing occurred, and we apologized for it.”
The trial, which has riveted the U.K. press, included testimony that the telephone of Kate Middleton was hacked 155 times, as well as intimate details of the private lives of all involved. After the verdicts, Cameron released a statement saying, “I take full responsibility for employing Andy Coulson. I did so on the basis of undertakings I was given by him about phone hacking and those turn out not to be the case. I always said that if they turned out to be wrong I would make a full and frank apology and I do that today. I am extremely sorry I employed him. It was the wrong decision and I am clear about that.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband said the government had been “tainted” by the appointment of Mr Coulson.