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Continued: One editor convicted, one cleared in British phone-hacking scandal at Murdoch-owned tabloid

  • Article by: JILL LAWLESS , Associated Press
  • Last update: June 24, 2014 - 4:11 PM

"He brought a criminal into the heart of Downing Street," Miliband said. "He put his relationship with Rupert Murdoch ahead of doing the right thing."

The verdict was vindication for Brooks, who was been the subject of such media fascination and online abuse that her lawyer called it a "witch hunt."

From humble origins in northern England, Brooks rose to become chief executive of Murdoch's British newspapers and a friend and neighbor of the prime minister, part of the horse-riding "Chipping Norton set," a reference to the tony town near her rural home. Friends included Cameron and former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who offered advice as the scandal erupted: "It will pass. Tough up."

In sometimes emotional testimony, Brooks described her "car crash" personal life, including her struggle to have a baby and her long affair with Coulson when both were married to others.

That affair formed a plank in prosecutors' case against Brooks — if Coulson knew about the hacking, they argued, she must have known, too.

But the jury was not convinced Brooks had known about the illegal activity.

The evidence against Coulson was stronger and included testimony from a former reporter, Dan Evans, that Coulson knew about hacking and other "dark arts" at the paper. Evans has pleaded guilty to hacking.

Standing in the dock, 46-year-old Brooks mouthed "thank you" after she was cleared of all charges. She and her husband left without speaking to reporters.

For several years Murdoch's company maintained the wrongdoing had been confined to Goodman and private investigator Mulcaire. That "rogue reporter" claim unraveled in 2011, when the Guardian newspaper revealed that the News of the World had intercepted the voice mails of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl kidnapped and murdered in 2002.

In the furor that followed, Murdoch shut down the 168-year-old newspaper and police relaunched investigations into tabloid wrongdoing.

Dozens of journalists and officials have been arrested, some of them employees of newspapers not owned by Murdoch.

The cost to Murdoch's News Corp. has been enormous. The mogul split the company into two businesses, a publishing company and a media and entertainment group. The company has spent more than $500 million in settlements with hundreds of hacking victims, legal fees and other related costs.

Murdoch's British newspaper division, News U.K., said in a statement that it had already apologized and had "made changes in the way we do business to help ensure wrongdoing like this does not occur again."

The cost to Britain's tabloid press is still being measured. In the wake of the scandal, Cameron set up a judge-led inquiry into media ethics. The judge recommended creating a strong press watchdog backed by government regulation. Tougher regulation is being resisted by large segments of the press.

The tabloids still specialize in celebrity kiss-and-tells, but their revelations have seemed more muted since the scandal.

Hacking victim Miller, who testified during the trial about how her fling with James Bond star Daniel Craig had made News of the World headlines, told the television network ITV: "I feel like that kind of callous journalism has hopefully died down, and I'm really proud I played a part in that."

Several more trials over tabloid wrongdoing are still to come.

"We have to take stock of what this verdict tells us about the culture of one of the world's major media organizations," said Steven Barnett, professor of communications at the University of Westminster. "It tells us it was rotten."

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