In a dramatic ending to a months-long trial, jurors tasked with deciding whether or not to convict several top former members of Rupert Murdoch's media empire on phone hacking charges reached a split decision on Monday. They declared Andy Coulson—a former editor of the News of the World who also served as Prime Minister David Cameron's chief spin doctor— guilty, while Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Murdoch's British newspaper holdings, was cleared of all charges.
Coulson's conviction represents a serious blow to Murdoch. He is the most senior figure thus far to be declared guilty during the hacking scandal. But Brooks's acquittal is an equally major victory; she was a more pivotal player in Murdoch's company, and was much more closely associated with him.
Coulson was convicted on one count of conspiring to hack phones. He and another defendant, former News of the World reporter Clive Goodman, were still awaiting to hear their verdicts on two other counts.
Brooks was cleared of four charges, including phone hacking, the bribing of public officials, and the obstruction of the police investigation into her activity.
She was reportedly so emotional at the verdict that she needed help in leaving the courtroom.
Her husband, Charlie, was also cleared of the charges against him, as were several other defendants.
Watch video of Brooks leaving the courtroom:
The verdict put immediate political pressure on Cameron, who hired Coulson to be his communications director even though reporters working for him at the News of the World had already been jailed for phone hacking. Coulson resigned from that post in early 2011 as the pressure over hacking increased. In a statement, Cameron said he was "profoundly sorry" for having hired Coulson.
"It was obviously wrong to employ him," he said. "I gave someone a second chance. It turned out to be a bad decision."
The marathon trial lasted from November until June. It was one of the longest criminal trials in British history, and one of the most serious challenges for Murdoch since the scandal exploded in 2011.
The court heard about everything from an affair between Brooks and Coulson to Tony Blair's close relationship with the Murdoch empire. A stream of celebrities, including Sienna Miller and Jude Law, testified.
Prosecutors emphasized the huge scale of the hacking that was taking place, with thousands of people having their voicemails criminally intercepted. They portrayed Brooks, Coulson and their associates as active conspirators in the criminality going on at News International (now called News UK). One lawyer told jurors they would have to think Brooks was a "fool" if she was unaware of what was going on at her newspapers.
The defendants denied every charge, saying they had been completely in the dark about the corruption happening all around them.
Jurors clearly believed Brooks when she said she had been uninvolved in phone hacking, but did not believe Coulson.
In one of his most damning moments, Coulson admitted that, in 2004, he listened to a voicemail left by David Blunkett, then the country's home secretary. He insisted that he did not know how the reporter who played him the message had obtained it.
Coulson now faces up to two years in prison.
In a statement, a spokesman for News UK tried to move on from the day's events.
"We said long ago, and repeat today, that wrongdoing occurred, and we apologized for it. We have been paying compensation to those affected and have cooperated with investigations," the statement read in part.
However, even as the dust settled on the trial, a new challenge emerged for Murdoch, as the Guardian reported that London police are set to question him over phone hacking. It seems that, for News Corp, the troubles caused by phone hacking never end.
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