LONDON — Two powerful British political insiders met starkly different fates Tuesday as former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was convicted of phone hacking but fellow editor Rebekah Brooks was acquitted, after a monthslong trial centering on illegal activity at the heart of Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper empire.
A jury at London’s Old Bailey unanimously found Coulson, the former spin doctor of British Prime Minister David Cameron, guilty of conspiring to intercept communications by eavesdropping on mobile phone voicemails. Brooks was acquitted of that charge and of counts of conspiring to bribe officials and obstruct police.
The nearly eight-month trial – one of the longest and most expensive in British legal history – was triggered by revelations that for years the News of the World used illegal eavesdropping to get stories, listening in on the voicemails of celebrities, politicians and even crime victims.
The scandal led Murdoch to shut down the 168-year-old tabloid and spurred criminal investigations in which dozens of journalists and officials have been arrested.
The jury also found former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner not guilty of phone hacking.
Three other defendants – Brooks’ husband Charles, her former secretary Cheryl Carter and News International security chief Mark Hanna – were acquitted of perverting the course of justice by attempting to hide evidence from police.
The defendants stood silently in the dock as the forewoman of the 11-member jury announced the verdicts.