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British court acquits ex-Murdoch aide on one count in hacking case

LONDON -- A London court acquitted former newspaper executive Rebekah Brooks on one of the five charges she faces in Britain’s high-profile trial of seven former senior staff members and journalists from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. on charges related to an extensive phone hacking scandal.

Brooks was acquitted on a count of misconduct tied to charges that she paid $6,000 in 2006 for a photograph of Prince William dressed in a bikini at a party to be published in the Sun, a Murdoch-owned tabloid she edited at the time. Presiding Judge John Saunders told the jury there was no case to be made because the source of the photo was uncertain.

Brooks, 45, faces other charges of illegal payments to public officials, all of which she denies, and of authorizing phone hacking by journalists during her time as editor of Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World between 2000 and 2003.

The decision came as the jury heard the first defense testimony in the case.

The court heard from defense lawyer Jonathan Laidlow, who described Brooks’ meteoric rise to features editor at age 27, deputy editor at 29 and then editor of Murdoch’s News of the World, one of Britain’s most popular Sunday tabloids, the Times of London reported.

Answering questions in a soft voice, Brooks revealed that payments for stories were commonplace in the cutthroat competitive world of tabloid journalism. One of the highest payments authorized by Brooks – which she first said involved 250,000 pounds but later corrected to $250,000 -- was for an exclusive interview with an alleged prostitute known as Divine Brown, whose encounter with actor Hugh Grant in Los Angeles in 1995 made headlines around the world, the Associated Press reported.

“It seems so silly now but it was quite important,” she said.

Stobart is a news assistant in the Times' London bureau.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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